By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Blair Buffington is returning to tradition this year with his interpretation of Lessons and Carols for Iowa Wesleyan?s annual Christmas concert on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.
It was at the start of the new year that the director of Choral Activities at Iowa Wesleyan (IW) began conceptualizing Iowa Wesleyan University?s performance to showcase six musical groups from the community with three of the groups joining together to sing the entirety of Vivaldi?s ?Gloria.?
?As years progressed, it kind of fell away from that traditional Lessons and Carols,? Buffington said. ?My goal was that we return to be an actual Lessons and Carols service. It was very well received (last year). All we?re doing is trying to build on that.?
This is only Buffington?s second year directing Lessons and Carols, a tradition that was established around 20 years ago by his predecessor. A traditional Lessons and Carols is a service of Scripture reading and song, with the first service introduced in 1918 at King?s College Chapel at Cambridge University. Although not traditionally a part of Lessons and Carols, the concert will feature ?Gloria? this year.
?When you start out, it?s really jarring, especially ?Gloria,? IW sophomore Austin Willis said. ?So many pages, so many different movements to it. It?s breathtaking at first, but once you come together with the rest of the choir, and then especially the orchestra later on, it turns from something you were intimidated by to something that?s truly beautiful.?
Willis is in IW Concert Choir, and this is his second year singing in Lessons and Carols. A college student from Essex, Ill., Willis said it?s something special to get to perform in Lessons and Carols with so many groups from Mt. Pleasant.
Willis said that as an IW student, he doesn?t really get the opportunity to be engulfed into the surrounding community. Preparing for and performing in Lessons and Carols lets him experience Mt. Pleasant ?in a new light,? and he gets to talk to people who have lived in Mt. Pleasant and experienced it their whole lives.
Buffington said that Lessons and Carols is a way for IW students to collaborate with other groups. ?Our students at IW get to work with musicians who are a little bit older and a little bit more experienced,? he said. ?And musicians who are a little bit older and more experienced get to work with young people. There?s a wonderful partnership that happens through that process.?
Marlene DePriest agrees. Director of the Mt. Pleasant High School Chamber Singers, who also will be performing at Lessons and Carols, DePriest said that it?s always a chance for the high school students to hear other groups and see where they could go in their performing careers.
?I?m happy to be a part of it and to get the kids out in the community,? she said.
Another one of the partnerships, orchestrated by Buffington, is the Southeast Iowa Symphony Chamber Orchestra (SEISO). Buffington said SEISO Chamber Orchestra has an event on the same day as Lessons and Carols each year. This year, they set up a ?good, old fashioned Iowa trade,? Buffington said. The IW Concert Choir will first be performing at SEISO?s concert in Harper before coming back for Lessons and Carols with SEISO orchestra players in tow that evening.
?I figured I was going to be lucky to come up with four or five string players (from SEISO) and we would just kind of have to make due,? Buffington said. ?Because we were able to negotiate a trade, we sing for them, they play for us, it?s for our mutual benefit.?
The other groups performing are Primae Voces, The Mt. Pleasant Choral, Sound Appeal Bell Choir and Acapella Women?s Ensemble.
Lynn Ellsworth, with Acapella Women?s Ensemble, said that Lessons and Carols is always a chance to hear some good music. She said the group was happy to be asked to participate for their second year in a row. ?We just like to perform no matter where,? Ellsworth said.
Lessons and Carols is free to the public. The concert is in the Chapel Auditorium on IW?s campus.