December 01, 2010


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By Heather Peavey Johns 

LEWISBURG, Pa. — "A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas," a beloved holiday and family event, returns to public television in a new high-definition broadcast in December. || William Payn: Candlelight Christmas

Viewers also can enjoy the 45-year-old Bucknell tradition at home with a new DVD/CD package, available online and at the Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University bookstore.

"A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas" highlights the uplifting power of music as performed by Bucknell University's internationally renowned undergraduate musical ensembles, the Rooke Chapel Choir and Rooke Chapel Ringers, under the direction of Professor of Music William Payn. Adapted from A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols of King's College, Cambridge, the service takes place in Rooke Chapel.

"A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas" was recorded in December 2009 and produced by WVIA-TV, the PBS affiliate that serves northeastern and central Pennsylvania. The WVIA air dates for "A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas" are:

  • Monday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 24, at noon and 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 25 at midnight, 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Viewers around the country should check their local PBS listings for air dates and times. || A complete list of PBS stations and their contact information is available online.

"The high-definition cameras bring the wonder of the celebration alive in a way that has never been seen on television before," said Payn. "Every aspect of the recording is beautifully presented. All of us involved in 'Candlelight' are thrilled at the way that WVIA has turned this seasonal performance into such a special television event."

This interdenominational service features biblical readings and traditional carols for choir and congregation, including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Joy to the World" and "Stille Nacht (Silent Night)." The program, which runs one hour, opens with the traditional candlelight procession and concludes with the ringing-in of Christmas.

Payn has heard from viewers all over the United States and as far away as Argentina about past years' broadcasts of "A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas." Previous recordings of the service were nominated for Emmy Awards in 1996 and 2004.

A Bucknell holiday tradition
"A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas" was established in 1964 by the late William McRae, founder of the Rooke Chapel Choir and Bucknell professor emeritus of music. Rooke Chapel was dedicated the same year as the gift of the late Robert L. Rooke, Class of '13 and a member of the University's Board of Trustees. Approximately 850 people can be seated in the sanctuary and balconies, which look onto the chapel's three-manual Reuter organ, one of the largest in central Pennsylvania.

The year Payn came to Bucknell, in 1982, one Candlelight service was held, and the chapel was filled to capacity. In 1983, Payn added a small hand bell ensemble to the performance along with a second service. Attendance was so high that, in 1984, "A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas" was increased to three services.

The format, readings and carols for "A Bucknell Candlelight Christmas" has stayed essentially the same since 1984. What has changed is the choral and hand bell music, with the exception of two pieces: "Still, Still, Still," sung by the Chapel Choir, and "The March of the Three Kings," performed by the Rooke Chapel Ringers.

The student performers represent most of the major fields of study at Bucknell, including the humanities, social and natural sciences, business administration and education, and engineering. More than two-thirds of the performers are from fields of study other than music.

"There is a passion for singing and ringing from students who are both music majors and non-music majors," Payn said. "For me, that's a major part of Bucknell's legacy and why I've loved teaching at Bucknell for 28 years."


Contact: Division of Communications