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Christmas Vespers

A Report by Eleanor Cook ('13)

John M. Greene Hall
December 2nd, 2012

Each year, Smith performs Christmas Vespers, an evening of music, readings, and prayer for the College and the community.

Christmas Vespers is one of Smith's oldest and treasured traditions. This past Sunday, throngs of families, Smith students and Northampton natives young and old filed into the garland-clad John M. Greene Hall for a retelling of the Advent story through carols, hymns, and Scripture. What began in 1875 with the first Smith College students and professors, as a service of somber reverence, said Jennifer Walters, dean of Religious Life, is today a celebration of the Christmas season with a distinctive Smith style.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Music Department, the program of text and song highlight not only the most celebrated moments of the Christmas story, but also musical talent at Smith. The Smith College Glee Club, led by Jonathan Hirsch, and the Smith College Chorus, led by Joseph Baldwin, serenaded the audience with anthems. The Smith College Chapel Handbell Choir, led by Grant Moss, performed two enchanting pieces. The Smith College Orchestra accompanied the choirs, but performed separately Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by J.S. Bach, conducted by senior Amy Kim. The first anthem, Hymnum Cantemus Domino, featured soloist Katie Weiser '13 in the afternoon service, and Katie Lipow '14 in the evening. The concluding choral response, Stille Nacht, featured seniors Katie Hoyer in the afternoon and Miriam Engel in the evening.

In lieu of Scripture, the final reading was taken from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich and drove home that the story of Christmas is about universal and irrevocable love. In the spirit of community and festivity, we came together and sang O Come, all Ye Faithful as the choirs recessed from the stage carrying candles down the aisles.

Donations given at the service go to the Friends of Hampshire County Homeless Individuals Interfaith Winter Shelter Program. The Interfaith Winter Shelter and its volunteers provide food and shelter throughout the winter months in collaboration with the City of Northampton, ServiceNet, and Friends of the Homeless. Offerings collected go toward the Friends of Hampshire County Homeless Individuals' fundraising goal of $30,000 to cover the operational costs and support programs of the shelter.

If you missed the service, or would like to experience it again, a replay is available on the Smith website at: http://www.smith.edu/webcast_vespers.php