Georgetown Music Ministry: Lessons and Carols

The annual celebration of Lessons and Carols during December is one of our central musical events, and anticipated all year long. This year the celebration featured the University Chapel Choir, the Contemporary Choir, and the Gospel Choir.

Two of our student directors reflect on their experience of this event below.

Lessons and Carols Dec 2013

From Emily Manbeck (new window), Junior Student Director, University Chapel Choir:

With my arms outstretched, I didn’t want the music to end. In my second year singing with the Georgetown University Chapel Choir, and my first as a student co-director, I had never known until this moment why Stephen Gliatto, the other co-director, and Dr. Wickman, the Chapel Choir Director, wanted me to learn how to conduct. Of course “because you’ll have to take over when Stephen graduates” was a simple answer, but I didn’t realize until the end of the Christus Paradox that there was a much more meaningful reason.

I began singing for the Liturgy when I came to Georgetown. My high school was nondenominational, so we never had any religious services. Our chorus was so focused on creating the perfect sound for upcoming concerts that we didn’t care about making an emotional connection with the music. On Sundays, I would hear our parish choir and think, “Wow, this choir has intonation problems!” — instead of “Wow, this music makes me feel more united with my parish and Lord.” Chapel Choir, however, changed the way that I sing and worship, and I will be forever grateful.

Chapel Choir taught me how to appropriate the messages of sacred music in my everyday life. Sharing God’s gift of song with my peers each week showed me that blending musical and religious communities was possible. We felt the Lord speak through our voices. For the first time, I understood that singing is so much more than performance.

This same idea applies to conducting. Sure, you have to remember to relax your arms and stay in tempo, but it is part of God’s gift. Practicing for this year’s Lessons and Carols taught me that there is nothing that God cannot do. In sending us a Savior and sacrificing Him for our sins, God has forgiven us for all of our mistakes and allowed us to persevere through challenges. When we genuinely try our hardest that we can feel God’s Love in our success.

From Steve Gliatto (new window), Senior Student Director, University Chapel Choir: 

Lessons and Carols is the highlight of my year, and I can think of no better example of both the strength of the Catholic community here and the power of the faith that binds us together. We all gather as a community to mark the beginning of Advent, the period of waiting for the coming of Christ into our world. Yet as Father Carnes always says, Advent is not a noun but a verb, a verb in present tense. God is Adventing. He has already come into our lives once, and surrounds our lives at all times, and we await the salvation of his second coming while we commemorate his first.

When we all gather in Holy Trinity on the night of Lessons and Carols, I feel as if I can touch the love of God with my fingers, see it in every face, even hold it in my hands as I direct the choir. To be able to express this love through music, through this gift from God that we have poured our souls into cultivating over the previous weeks, is to me the most perfect way of conveying that love. It brings us into a heightened sense of prayer and community, and buoys us with the inexorable peace and love of the Spirit. It’s as if we are praying through our song, “Lord Jesus, bless our lives, especially at this time of year as we await you. May we send your love out to the world, and may we be forever grateful that you chose to make us your instruments.”