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Virtual Lessons and Carols Celebrate Time-honored Tradition of Scripture and Song

Kelly Slonaker

Students, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends gathered virtually for Lessons and Carols on the evening of Thursday, December 17. The event, celebrated annually by Canterbury, was streamed live from the Chapel of Our Lady with in-person readings and pre-recorded musical performances. A storm that blanketed the hilltop with more than a foot of snow on the same day prevented presider Fr. Mark Connell and local Sacristans from attending in person, but Head of School Rachel Stone and several faculty members presented readings in their place. 

The Festival of Lessons and Carols is a Christian tradition that dates to the late 19th century. The service includes seven Scripture lessons which recount the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus, and each reading is followed by a carol that reflects on the lesson's message. Scripture readers included Rachel Stone; Dean of Students Jake Dellorco; Director of Health Services Colleen Cook, R.N. ’02; Theology Teacher Amy Omaña; Associate Head of School for Academics Sue Roberts; and Choral and Liturgical Music Director Sarah Armstrong and her husband, Dylan.

The evening began with opening remarks from Rachel Stone: “As a community, country, and world, we have spent the past nine months navigating a pandemic, advocating for human rights, and working tirelessly to take care of one another. The joy and light that come with the Christmas season could not arrive at a better time. Tonight, let us together pause and be present for the spirit of Advent.”

Varsity Voices, Chorale, and Community Choir led the carols, joined by Sarah Armstrong and instrumental accompanist Christopher Rich, and Sandra Xu ’21 played “How Far is it to Bethlehem” on the violin. Yurou Li ’21 and Katherine Datlow ’24 played songs on the carillon, a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze bells that are precisely tuned and arranged in chromatic progression so that music in any key can be played (Canterbury has the unique honor of housing one of Connecticut’s eleven Carillons. Located in the Chapel of Our Lady). Chorale performers included Katherine Delamere ’21, Colleen Gallagher ’24, Kayleigh Keefe ’21, Emily Lang ’24, Yurou Li ’21, Andrew Martin ’23, and Fiona Yao ’23. Varsity Voices, who performed beautiful renditions of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Deck the Hall,” included Ava Faruol ’24, Colleena Healy ’21, Zhe Ji ’23, Stella McCormack ’21, Sylvia Pinheiro ’24, Sydney Ragland ’21, Cooper Stepankiw ’22, Bryce Stone ’23, ZhiLu Wang ’21 and Qixiu Yao ’22. Notably, several members of both Chorale and Varsity Voices practiced and recorded their songs from across the world during remote learning. The carols also included a solo by Tyler Roberts, son of Associate Head of School for Academics Sue Roberts and Math Department Chair Chris Roberts. 

The Lessons and Carols service is typically an event that draws members of the community from near and far to join together in the Chapel of Our Lady for an evening of joy and reflection. While it wasn’t possible to fill the chapel with our beloved Saints this year, the beautiful Advent festival nonetheless brought the Canterbury community together in song and spirit.

We wish the entire Canterbury community a Merry Christmas and a healthy and joyful new year! 

Watch the recording of this year’s service:

Lessons and Carols