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Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas Celebrates 40th Anniversary at Middlebury

November 22, 2011

Service Will Ring in the Holidays at Mead Chapel on December 11

Middlebury, VT—Middlebury College presents the 40th anniversary service of Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas on Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 4:00 and 7:00 P.M. in Mead Memorial Chapel. This annual program includes Bible readings of Advent and Christmas and carols for choir, organ, and congregation, modeled after the long-standing British tradition.


lessonsandcarols-nathanielrothrockLessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas has been a special Addison County tradition for 40 years. People come from all over the county and state to participate in this joyous community event, filling historic Mead Chapel for both the afternoon and evening services. The event offers an opportunity for the entire community to sing traditional Christmas music, to enjoy the beautiful voices of the Middlebury College Choir, and to remember the original meaning of the holiday season.




Scriptural readings—or lessons— are read by Middlebury College students, staff, and faculty. Interspersed between the lessons, Advent and Christmas music is performed by the Middlebury College Chapel Choir, under the direction of Jeff Buettner, or sung by the congregation. College Organist and Professor of Music Emeritus Emory Fanning provides the accompaniment, as well as music before and after the service. The carillon atop the chapel welcomes people with the sound of bells ringing down the hillside. Middlebury College Chaplain Laurie Jordan leads the service.



lessonsandcarols2-photobrettsimisonThe 40th anniversary program includes music by Tomás Luis de Victoria, Pavel Chesnokoff, William Matthias, Herbert Howells, and David Willcocks. Special guest performers for this anniversary service include tenor Dan Marcy, an Affiliate Artist with the Middlebury College Department of Music; The Snowflake Brass Quartet; and a violin quartet.


The service is based on the Advent Service of Nine Lessons and Carols that has been celebrated every year at King’s College, Cambridge, England since 1918, and is broadcast to millions worldwide on Christmas morning through BBC World Service Radio. It was originally planned by Eric Milner-White, the Dean of King’s College Chapel. He had been a World War I British army chaplain, and became a liturgical pioneer who was convinced that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship. Though the music changes each year, the backbone of the service—the prayers and lessons—has remained virtually unchanged since those days.

The first Middlebury service took place in 1971, under the direction of Emory Fanning and Chaplain Charles P. Scott. They were convinced that the college’s music department was up to the challenge, and that the community would welcome this colorful and moving celebration. One of the readers that first year was a Middlebury College senior named James H. Douglas (later Vermont Governor), who read the Nativity lesson from the second chapter of Luke. Douglas will return this year as a reader for the 40th anniversary services.

Middlebury’s Lessons and Carols was made famous by two public television specials. Christmas in Vermont: A Celebration of Lessons and Carols was filmed in 1984. And in 1988, Vermont Public Television produced A Vermont Christmas, narrated by actor Burgess Meredith and filmed on location in Middlebury and on the College’s Bread Loaf campus. Each production was rebroadcast, over several years, by over 200 public television stations nationally.

Both services of Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas are free and open to the public, but each year, generous donations are collected for HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects), Elderly Services, and Addison County Home Health and Hospice. For more information, call the Middlebury College Chaplain’s Office (802) 443-5626 or go to


Photos Trent Campbell

Mahaney Arts Center
Middlebury College
South Main St./Route 30 South
72 Porter Field Rd.
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 443-3168 phone
(802) 443-2834 fax