The Iowa Wesleyan Univeristy Chapel was alive with the sound of music over the weekend as the Iowa Wesleyan (IW) Music Department, with the help of the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra (SEISO), and other area music groups, presented “Arise, Shine! A Service of Lessons and Carols” over the weekend.
The sound from the choir echoed from the walls before silence filled the room as audiences soaked in the sounds of the season. Lessons and Carols has been an IW tradition for over 20 years but has just come into its latest form of a more traditional service which includes 10 lessons and carols to follow. IW Concert Choir Conductor, Blair Buffington, said this was a change he made when he came to the university three years ago.
“It’s been (going on) more than 20 years, but not to this extent,” he said. “Before three years ago it was just some readings and a little bit of music. When I came here three years ago, both President Titus and I felt very strongly that if we were going to have Lessons and Carols we needed to actually do a more traditional version.”
Part of the more traditional feel was adding in local groups to perform along with them to help fill out the sound in the chapel. Buffington said being able to reach out into the community and pull in other civic groups is what makes the performance so strong.
“Because we are a regional university, it gives us a chance to reach out into the community and have contact with some of those students outside of the Mt. Pleasant community,” he said.
Joining the performance for the first time was the Burlington High School Acapella group, led by James Flaherty. He said he was excited to give his students this opportunity because it exposed them to music and people they would not normally encounter.
“I wanted to start doing something like this, a big special holiday concert,” he said. “I think it’s just an experience that a lot of high school kids don’t get so just to get a handful of my kids up on stage to sing with college kids and professional community choir members is not an experience everybody gets.”
Among the community choirs was the Mt. Pleasant Chorale. Mark Kimzey has been a member of the chorale for more than 10 years. He said this event is one of his favorites year after year because it allows for the opportunity to appreciate music and community in a whole new way.
“It gives an opportunity for so many of us to express our musical abilities ... with meaning and depth,” he said. “Music brings out the meaning of the advent season.”