Welcome the holiday season on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m., with the Festival of Carols, the much-loved annual presentation at Cheshire’s First Congregational Church, 111 Church Dr.
Join with the church’s vibrant chancel choir, members of the Greater Middletown Chorale, and singers from the Cheshire community, directed and accompanied by Joseph D’Eugenio, director of music at the First Congregational Church in Cheshire and artistic director of the GMChorale. The event is family-friendly, free, and open to the public. All are welcome; the doors will open at 4:30 p.m. The snow date is Sunday, Dec. 18, at 5 p.m.
In the sanctuary of one of Connecticut’s iconic Federal-style churches, glowing with candles and seasonal decorations, the Christmas story will unfold in thoughtful readings and choral anthems, with all those assembled invited to join in singing traditional Christmas carols. The service is modeled on the Festival of Lessons and Carols that was first offered in Truro, England, in 1880, where it has since been performed without interruption and was later made famous by the annual radio broadcast of a Lessons and Carols service at King’s College Cambridge, offered continuously since 1918.
“Like the traditional British carol festivals, the Festival at First Congregational Church pairs seasonal readings with choral anthems and Christmas carols,” said D’Eugenio.
“The anthems are sung by the festival choir and the carols are sung by everyone gathered. When hundreds of people sing together in joy and celebration, it’s an exciting, transformative experience,” added D’Eugenio.
The service opens with the carol made famous by the King’s College service, “Once in Royal David’s City,” sung in procession as the choir enters the church. Along with more familiar carols such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” the service includes modern classics, such as “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by David Willcocks, and “Manger Carol” by Anthony Hedges. “Child of God,” a new anthem by Connecticut composer, Lorie Martin, will be premiered as well.
D’Eugenio will lead the festival choir and congregational singing from the console of the church’s dynamic Aeolian-Skinner organ. Built in 1949 and substantially renovated and expanded in 2014, the organ is “one of the most beautiful instruments in the region,” said D’Eugenio.