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Feast of Lights

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Dr. Nicholle Andrews discusses the Feast of Lights during the Homecoming 2013 mini-course "Behind the Scenes of the Feast of Lights."

Now in its 66th year, the heart and soul of the Feast of Lights continues to be the students who bring it to life and the audience members who appreciate the Feast experience.

“The students involved take pride in their performance, and it is evident to the audience,” Dr. Nicholle Andrews, Director of the Feast of Lights and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Redlands, said. “Every year, there are new performers on stage, which in turn brings new audience members. Each night, the audience is comprised of people who have been attending since the beginning, sitting next to someone who is experiencing the Feast for the first time. The excitement and anticipation of the new audience members is transferred to the returning audience members, who inevitably end up meeting each other and sharing stories. It's beautiful.”

The Feast of Lights will run Dec. 6 to 9 in the Memorial Chapel. Although it lasts only four days, the planning takes an entire year, beginning in January. Everything from lighting to costume design to song selection is narrowed down by the artistic team, which includes Andrews, choral conductor Prof. Joseph Modica, Chaplain John Walsh, orchestral conductor Prof. Co Boi Nguyen, stage director Prof. Marco Schindelmann, organist Frederick Swann, and costume and set designer Snezana Petrovic.

“I believe the Feast is so special because, after so many years, it has not lost its magic,” Andrews said. “It has evolved with the students, the faculty, and the audience. Though change can be challenging, the Feast has endured change over the years, and I believe that it is stronger as a result.”

The Feast of Lights was first presented by the School of Music in 1947 under J. Williams Jones, an organist and choirmaster who created a similar service for the First Presbyterian Church of Rome, NY. It is a service of worship celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in spoken word, tableaux, song and orchestral offering.

“It is a true honor to be part of such an incredible tradition,” Andrews said. “We will be celebrating the 66th Feast of Lights this year at the University of Redlands. Knowing that there are 246 students involved in the Feast this year, if we multiplied that by 66 years, that is over 16,000 students. It’s absolutely incredible.”

According to Andrews, the students all audition during the first week of classes, and are then placed in the appropriate ensemble based on their musical experience and ability.

“These ensembles perform throughout the year and begin preparing the Feast of Lights repertoire during the first week of November,” she said. “All ensembles are University of Redlands courses and the students receive grades for their performances. In the Feast this year, audience members will hear Chapel Singers, Madrigals Singers, University Choir, University Orchestra, Flute Choir, Trumpet Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble. The Tableau actors are auditioned during the third week of October. Some of the students in the Tableau have singing roles, while others assume acting roles.”

After hours and weeks of practice, it’s time for the Feast of Lights to begin.

“I feel the Feast of Lights resonates with so many people because of tradition and celebration,” Andrews said. “Many families started attending the Feast before I was born! It is always a joy for me when I meet people after a performance and they share their 'Feast' story. Some have performed, while others are dedicated audience members. For many, the Feast of Lights marks the beginning of the holiday season. Audience members can put aside the stress of the season, sit and listen to a meaningful narrative and beautiful music. It's a time where families come together and make an evening of sharing, celebration and tradition.”

To purchase tickets to the Feast of Lights, click here. Audience members are asked to bring non-perishable food items to donate to local community members in need. Over the past five years, thousands of pounds of food have been collected for the Family Service Association of Redlands.

Posted: Nov. 20, 2013
Written by: Catherine Garcia


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