Lighting ceremony to usher in Christmas season on campus

Column: Black Friday
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Lighting ceremony to usher in Christmas season on campus

The BJU campus will soon shine with thousands of twinkling lights to celebrate the Christmas season. Photo: Photo Services

BJU’s front campus will be filled with Christmas cheer tonight as the university family and guests from the community join to sing carols and watch tens of thousands of Christmas lights illuminate campus during the University’s annual Christmas Lighting Ceremony.

The University Singers, BJU’s freshman choir, will set the festive mood for the evening with a pre-concert beginning at 6:15 p.m.

Afterward, the audience will be invited to join in singing classic Christmas carols. Dr. David Parker, a faculty member in the department of vocal studies, whose jovial personality helps spread the Christmas spirit, will lead the singing. Parker has directed the Christmas carol sing for the past five years.

Dr. Ken Renfrow, a faculty member in the department of keyboard studies, will accompany the singing on the keyboard. “Dr. Renfrow does amazing things on the keyboard, and he is really the one who holds [the singing] all together,” Parker said.

According to Parker, the first half of the lighting ceremony is filled with classic Christmas carols, including “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “White Christmas” and “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

Andie Maxwell, a junior creative writing major, said that one of her favorite things about the ceremony is singing “The 12 Days of Christmas.” She also loves the lighting ceremony because Christmas is her favorite time of year. “Front campus is so cheerful and Christmas-y,” she said.

The lighting ceremony is also a great outreach opportunity. Parker said many people from the community come to campus to sing with the University, and they are given an introduction to the Gospel through the Christmas story, which is read before singing the sacred Christmas carols.

According to Parker, this year “O Holy Night,” which begins the sacred half of the caroling, will be sung by three sopranos: Markel Toler, a faculty GA; Sarah Wright, a junior music education major; and Emma Galloway, a senior creative writing major. At the climax of the song, all of the Christmas lights strung around front campus are turned on, illuminating the trees and the fountain bridge as the audience finishes the sacred caroling in the light.

Parker enjoys hearing the thousands of voices singing together and seeing all the families that come out for the ceremony. “It’s just a great, fun time, and it goes too fast,” Parker said.

Amanda Hilgeman, a staff member in the interior design department, works on making sure the decoration aspect of the ceremony goes smoothly.

She said the planning for campus Christmas decorations begins a year in advance. The actual decorating began Dec. 2, and many departments, including interior design, grounds, electrical, distribution and maintenance, were involved with decorating campus for the ceremony.

Phil Rush, a senior church music major, helped put up the Christmas decorations his freshman year when he worked on the grounds crew. “Putting up the lights helped me get into the mindset of Christmas,” he said. “It was a cool way to usher in the Christmas season.”

According to Hilgeman, this year the decorations are composed of “natural elements,” including pinecones, berries, magnolia leaves and greenery cut from plants on campus. “We use a little of everything, from sparkly snowflake ornaments to dried fruit,” she said.

Following the lighting ceremony, students, faculty and guests are invited to attend the Wind Band Concert in Rodeheaver Auditorium or the Little Women musical in Performance Hall, both starting at 7:30 p.m. (Tickets for the musical are sold out.)

Also, students may go on the late-night ice skating trip, which starts at 11:45 p.m. and ends at 1:15 a.m. Saturday morning.