From Skeptic to Believer, Senior Shares Final Candlelight Carol Experience

Candlelight Carol

By Kate Parsley '13

My favorite moment in Candlelight is always the same. When I am feeling nostalgic for Candlelights gone by, it is the thought of "Once in Royal David's City" that brings tears to my eyes. Everyone in Greene Chapel knows it is coming, yet the reaction is always the same. There is a collective almost-audible gasp that lets me know that we have done it again. By the time the other sopranos and I get to the descant, I cannot help but shed a tear (or sob uncontrollably if it is the last performance in Greene) at the awe-inspiring beauty of the choir and congregation singing together. It is a moment that I think about often, especially now that I have sung my last Candlelight.

I came from a strong choir background in high school. Everything from All-State to Madrigal Feaste, I did it all. I loved it so much that I was convinced that nothing that I did in college choir could compare. I went into the Hendrix College Choir with this skeptical attitude. I knew nothing of Candlelight. Nine Lessons and Carols? Sounds easy enough, I thought. We rehearsed three times a week from 4:30-5:50 all semester. After dress rehearsal, the buzz surrounding the performances was at a peak. Obviously, the veteran choir members knew something that I did not. 

What was so special about Candlelight?

It took only one performance to answer that question. As the choir members lined up outside of Greene (obviously, trying to blow out each other's candles), the excitement was almost tangible. It was show time. When Ansley played the introduction to "Once in Royal David's City," a hush fell over everyone. It felt as though breathing would ruin the moment.

After experiencing my first Candlelight in its entirety, I knew that I had been wrong. Candlelight holds a special place in people's hearts for a reason, and it had found a special place in mine. With each Candlelight, my love for the tradition only increased. I feel privileged to have been a part of something so beautiful and to sing with so many talented individuals. I honestly cannot imagine my time at Hendrix without Candlelight at the end of every fall semester.

Finding time for choir can be difficult. My senior thesis lurks around every corner. There are always hundreds of pages of reading to be done or a paper to write. So when choir rehearsal time rolls around, it can be difficult to take a break. I find myself wondering: Do we really need to rehearse this many hours? Dress rehearsal is going to be how long? Dr. Fleming wants us to do what?

Then that moment happens. I am standing at the back of Greene Chapel singing "Once in Royal David's City." I get to the descant that sopranos love so much. It makes me forget. My senior thesis? That chemistry test? Later, my brain says.

Candlelight gives me a moment of peace in the chaotic semester. It gives me a moment to reflect on the importance of music, Christmas, faith, and friends. What does that pesky Dr. West paper really matter compared to the joy we bring to people through our music? It is an amazing feeling to see our hard work rehearsing in T3pay off in such a meaningful way. Candlelight affects everyone who has the privilege of experiencing it, and I feel that I am just one example of the way in which it changes lives. Choir and Candlelight have given me friends and memories that have shaped the person I have become during my time at Hendrix, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Singing in my last Candlelight was a bittersweet experience. I am excited to move on to the next stage of my life, but Candlelight will forever hold a special place in my heart. Anytime I hear "Once in Royal David's City," I will think of my time at Hendrix with longing, and I will most definitely always sing that glorious descant.

Kate Parsley is a senior English studies major from White Hall, Ark. She is vice president of the choir.