On Sunday, the 75th "Christmas Music by Candlelight" will be presented at 4 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church at Market and Ross streets. The service is provided by the Williamsport Music Club as a musical Christmas gift to the community.
The first such candlelight service was at the first Baptist Church in 1937.
The beautifully decorated sanctuary was the setting for boys in choir robes serving as ushers with members carrying lighted red candles while processing to "Adeste Fideles" as the congregation joined in the singing of the hymn.
The Williamsport Youth Choir will perform for the Williamsport Music Club’s 75th anniversary “Christmas Music by Candlelight” show, which will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 2 at First United Methodist Church, Market and Ross streets.
For the next three years, the service was held at the former St. Paul Lutheran Church. In 1941, the candlelight service was moved to the First United Methodist Church, its present site. During the early years, fond memories are of Eva Buck's cornet introduction to the first hymn, Mrs. John R. Kaufman III, ringing her Swiss bells, the Music Club string ensemble and three vocal ensembles: juvenile, junior and senior. All performers appeared regularly to standing room only audiences.
It is interesting to note that the last remaining Music Club Charter member, Dorothy Jacobs Streeter, died just this year, 75 years after she capably served as chairwoman of the very first service. Also, another charter member and well-known musician, Mary Landon Russell, died in 2008. She played the piano at numerous services throughout the years.
A special 75th Anniversary Choir has been formed to sing for this candlelight service. Singers from all churches in the community have been invited to participate.
The Williamsport Youth Choir, an affiliate of the Williamsport Chamber Choir and Orchestra are participating as well. The Youth Choir includes grades 5 through 8, is directed by Curtin Middle School teacher Jennifer Wright and is accompanied by Bethany Fisher. The members include: Paige Bushnick, Maria Berardelli, Ellie Boring, Cassie Conklin, Melony Crissman, Elizabeth Culp, Ben Dawson, Hannah Dawson, Kayliegh Early, Lydia Fink, Joseph Freynick, Lauren Heim, Kara Hershey, Alyssa Jacopetti, Lauren Lattimer, Reagan Luna, London Mussina, Kolachi Pombar, Jordan Reed, Sydney Reed, Maddy Reeves, Naomi Rintelman, Devon Robinson, Levi Roush, Sam Sacavage, Amber Smith, Anna-Vaughn Stewart, Sadie Wentzel, Taylor Wentzel, Shayne Williams and Mitchell Young.
Traditionally, the free will offering received at this service is given to a local charity. This year, the offering will be donated to the Food Pantry of the United Churches of Lycoming County.
Richard Lakey will begin the candlelight event with the organ prelude "Of the Father's Love Begotten" by Wilbur Held, followed by the processional hymn "O Come All Ye Faithful." A 16th century English tune, "What Child is This?" will be played by flutist Lucy Henry, accompanied by Dianne Peeling.
The Exodus Brass Quintet, featuring Andrew France and Robert Wise on trumpet; Judith Shellenberger, French horn; Glenn Hosterman, trombone, and Scott Williams on tuba will present "Farandole," from L'Arlesienne Suite No. 3 by Bizet; and a medley titled "Christmastide," arranged by Malinda Zenor.
Pianist Jane Landon will perform an arrangement of the traditional Christmas melody, "I Saw Three Ships" after which the Williamsport Youth Choir will perform "Sing Noel" by Praetorius, "The First Noel with Pachelbel's Canon," arranged by Michael Clayson and "Ding Dong! Merrily on High," arranged by Howard Cable.
Program Chairman Kay Huffman will offer greetings after which organist Leatha Kieser will play "Caroling, Caroling" as the offertory, followed by the French carol "Angels We Have Heard on High" featuring a flute obligato by Lucy Henry.
The vocal solo "The Virgin's Slumber Song" will be sung by tenor Robert Hacker, accompanied by Tom Wetzel.
The 75th Anniversary Choir will sing "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" by Charles Wesley, "There's a Song in the Air" by Holland and Harrington and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" by Regney and Sharpe.
The Choir is directed by Kay Huffman and accompanied by Tom Qetzel.
Concluding the service will be the Recessional Carol "Joy to the World" by Handel and the Postlude "In Dulci Jubilo" by J.S. Bach, played by organist Carol Waltz.
The ushers will be Dale Bower, James Fetter, Herb Seltzer and Claude Williams. The Acolytes will be Daniel and Joseph Havrilla.