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Saint Edward's School Prepares a Festival of Lessons & Carols

Tania Ortega-Cowan

It’s that “most wonderful time of year” where every school in America is preparing a holiday musical program for the community.

In Vero Beach, Saint Edward’s School is preparing their Festival of Lessons & Carols for December 6th. It’s free and open to the public.

We dropped in on a rehearsal with 8 of the 45 total singers who will perform. They had just started their vocal warmups.

AB: I’m Anthony Baron and I am the Director of Choral Music at Saint Edward’s School.

We asked him: What exactly is a Festival of Lessons & Carols?

AB: “It started at Truro Cathedral in England back in 1878 so I think this is about the 140th year that it has existed. The most common one that people know about – some of your listeners might know about is - the Lessons & Carols at Kings College Cambridge. That’s a really popular event that people go to, but there is also a history of private school doing for a long time, especially here in America. Here at Saint Edward’s, this is our 25th year of Lessons & Carols here.”

And what are those lessons? They come right out of the bible starting with Genesis.

AB: “And then we carry it through several readings that anticipate the birth of Jesus.. So, you get kind of a neat story that accompanies the music. So, the music is paired where portions of the Bible that are read, there is music that specifically relates to it

Baron has great artistic freedom in creating the program.  Each year he and the school chaplain choose from about suggested 30 readings that fit well with the music Baron has selected to make a cohesive story. He makes sure to present a variety of musical styles within the context of religious ceremony.

AB: “So we have a real variety of music. We have a gospel piece called Halleluiah Praise the Lord. We have a piece by a Norwegian composer named Ola Gjeilo called Ubi Caritas which is in Latin.

Bring up sound of them singing this Ubi Caritas and then down

AB:  And then we have – trying to honor the tradition of Lesson & Carols – we have a couple pieces of music that are written by British composers. We have a piece called Magnificat that is the Canticle of Mary by a composer named George Dyson, and then the girls’ choir will sing a piece called This Little Babe by Benjamin Britten from his Ceremony of Carols actually.

We asked some of the singers what their favorite part is…

Here is Gabriella Carlson – she is a Junior.  

GC:  I think this year my favorite part is we’re singing piece called Mr. Baron said – the Magnificat – and at first when we started learning it – none of us really wanted to but as we. Because it was hard? -   Sort of yeah. But as we really learned the piece, we all started to like it more and it is really fun to sing. And what an accomplishment you feel when you do it, right? Yes.”

CP: I’m Cristina Pines. I’m a sophomore. So, this would be my third year performing in Lessons & Carols. And I think my favorite part  about this whole ceremony and everything else we have been doing is just how the harmonies of the songs he has picked especially this year – they blend so nicely and they are just so comforting almost that is just really puts you in that Christmas Spirit and really jut reminds you why we’re here and why we are doing it.”

MM:  My name is Michael Mangieri. I’m a junior and this is going to be my fourth year singing at Lessons & Carols.  And I hear that you’re a bass. I am actually not. I am a tenor! Yeah sometimes he would switch me from tenor to bass in the past, but now this year I am kind of liking it being tenor so I am enjoying it definitely. 

You are invited to experience the Festival of Lessons & Carols on Thursday December 6th at 7 pm at Saint Edward’s School in Vero Beach. It’s free and pianist Jacob Craig will accompany the 45 singers on stage.