By Megan McGregor Editor-in-Chief
Soft candlelight painted the walls of the Irvine Memorial Chapel in warm colors, while the scent of the freshly cut evergreen branches decorating the sanctuary permeated the air and added the unmistakable scent of the Christmas holidays to the air. Mercersburg Academy’s annual Candlelight Service was ready to begin. From the back of the chapel, the Chorale’s voices rose in sweet harmony.
Every year, the Chorale chooses an upbeat anthem to start the Candlelight service. Walkin’ Down the Road to Bethlehem by Greg Gilpin is an a cappella arrangement with powerful musical dynamics. The melody starts with quiet energy and gradually grows to create an intricate and forceful sound. In order to confidently sing it while holding lit candles, the chorale had to memorize the piece.
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day by John Gardner is an upbeat traditional English carol. The text tells the story of Jesus’ life and is rooted in medieval tradition. To maintain the song’s fast pace, there are several meter shifts and short notes. The tambourine and drum accompanied the chorale, adding lively embellishments.
Gabriel’s Message, arranged by Tony Alonso, is a fresh approach to a traditional melody. With Latin text interspersed throughout and a flute accompaniment, this arrangement elevates the popular hymn and allows for a new perspective to the 13th Century text. It maintains the familiarity of the original while adding some delightful surprises to engage the audience.
The text in Coventry Carol was inspired by the Massacre of the Innocents, a biblical story in which King Herod commanded the slaughter of all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem. The arrangement by Stephen R. Johnson maintains the somber tone of the narrative while building beautiful harmonies. A highlight of this piece is the robust sound produced by the tenors and basses in the second verse which contrasts the light and eerie tone of the sopranos and altos.Typically the fourth song in Handel’s Messiah, And the glory of the Lord is a massive undertaking for any choral group. It is known for its complicated rhythms, key changes, and challenging vocal ranges. The chorale was accompanied by the strings and the organ to complete the dynamic and powerful work of music.