Dec. 3, 2013. The choir of St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church will present a traditional Lessons and Carols service Sunday afternoon, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m. The service will be held at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum this year during church renovations, and everyone is truly welcome. In case of bad weather, please call the church office at 295-7323 to confirm that the service is not being rescheduled.
Familiar to Christians everywhere through BBC broadcasts from King’s Chapel in Cambridge, the service tells the story of the fall of Adam, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus as told in short Bible readings interspersed with carols and hymns. Sung in Anglican churches all over the world since the 1880s, the service is a lovely beginning to the Christmas season and celebration of the miracle of God’s love as expressed by the birth of the Christ child.
While the terms “carol” and “hymn” are often used interchangeably, the two are, in fact, different. Hymns tend to exhort us, or teach us some point of theology, while the purpose of the carol-just like the stained glass windows in medieval cathedrals-is to tell a Bible story in a way both joyous and reverential. Music for this Lessons and Carols includes Adam lay ybounden by Ord, the traditional Appalachian Carol I Wonder as I Wander, the African-American hymn I Wanna be Ready, Wood’s ‘Twas the Year that King Uzziah Died, Healey Willan’s I Beheld Her, the lively Spanish carol Riu Riu Chiu, and Rachmanifnoff’s Ave Maria.
The St. Mary’s Choir has performed many times with various chamber orchestras, but its focus remains unaccompanied singing, and its heart is regular Sunday morning worship and monthly choral evensong. Dr. James Bumgardner has been organist and Choir Director at St. Mary’s for over 20 years, and has led the choir on several trips to study with the foremost directors of Anglican choral music in Cambridge, England, including George Guest at St. John’s, Stephen Cleobury at King’s, and Tim Brown at Clare College. The group has been choir-in-residence at Durham Cathedral in England twice and has sung services for St. Mary the Virgin in New York City, as well as representing North Carolina at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.