Nearing the end of his piece, William Duan’s ’19 slow, drawn out notes on the violin morphed into several quick flurries. Duan’s bow raced as the music swelled to a climax, concluding with several loud, resonating notes. Duan performed an original composition titled “Variations on Silent Night,” incorporating motifs of “Silent Night” throughout his performance.
“When I sat down to compose, the tune of ‘Silent Night’ came into mind for its simple but melodious nature as well as the numerous harmonic possibilities I could create out of the melody,” wrote Duan in an email to The Phillipian.
Duan’s solo was part of the larger Lessons and Carols Service, which took place Sunday in Cochran Chapel. Community members and students alike attended the annual event, at which lessons from the Bible were interspersed between performances by several musical groups and solo acts.
“Getting to see the groups on campus perform was interesting especially because they were all bound to the traditional Christmas-y feel. It just got me in that holiday spirit and the fact that there was a service attached to it was an interesting switch up from normal performances that you will see in other times of the year,” said audience member Aaron Watkins ’21.
Handbell Choir began the service with renditions of “O Holy Night” and “Away in a Manger.” With slow flicks of the wrist, the members played slow, melodic chimes that echoed throughout the Chapel with their ringing sound.
Harrison Ringel ’19, a member of the Handbell Choir said, “I think the performance went really well and may have been one of our best run-throughs of the piece. I think the performance was great, because of the mood everyone is in. The entire audience was wrapped up in the music about to get ready for whatever they celebrate, but the music is what gave them that feeling of warmth.”
The Fidelio Society, Gospel Choir, and Academy Chorus also performed with the Children’s Choir in performances of the Langston Hughes poem “Mary Had a Baby” and the song “Away in a Manger.” The three Academy groups took a supporting role in the performance, letting the Children’s Choir take the spotlight.
“My favorite song to perform was probably ‘Away in a Manger’ with the children’s choir, and it was the best part of the performance in my opinion as well. I liked how [the children] were the protagonist and focal point of the piece and we were just their backing and supporting them,” wrote Cecelia Egler ’19, a member of the Academy Gospel Choir and Academy Chorus, in an email to The Phillipian.
The service, with both its sermons and musical performances, gave students the opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit. As a celebration of Christmas, the night brought in the holiday cheer for those in attendance.
Chorus member Martina Gil-Diaz ’21 said, “I felt like an elementary student in a Catholic school or something singing to elderly people who were delighted to hear us perform. The sky outside the windows was quiet and filled with white clouds, the chapel was decorated in wreaths and garlands, there were red bows decorating the doors, the lights were dimmed, and people were wearing Christmas sweaters. It was just very joyful and peaceful.”