The Chancel Choir of Suntree United Methodist Church will present the Festival of Lessons and Carols, a special Christmas service, Sunday, Dec. 16 at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. Tee Rockwell, center, will sing the traditional first solo.

MELBOURNE – County residents and visitors will soon have the opportunity to attend a special church service featuring a century-old musical Christmas program that originally began in England.

The Suntree United Methodist Church Chancel Choir will present the Festival of Lessons and Carols – a presentation of nine short Bible readings alongside Christmas carols, hymns and choir music – Sunday, Dec. 16 during the 9:30 and 11 a.m. services, 7400 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne.

Introduced on Christmas Eve in 1918 at King’s College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, the historic program was first broadcast in the U.K. in 1928 and in the United States in 1979, a press release notes.

The upcoming services at Suntree United Methodist Church were inspired by the program’s 100th anniversary, a recently restored 1923 Hook & Hastings pipe organ and the idea of using all live musicians to enhance the scripture.

“I believe in using real live human beings who are present in the moment worshipping a real live God,” noted the church’s director of traditional music, Robert E. Lamb. “At the Festival at King’s College, the choir sings a cappella (‘in the chapel,’ without accompaniment) or with the accompaniment of organ…and that’s it…no band, no accompaniment CD, no other instruments.”

“Since we just completed the installation of our newly renovated pipe organ this fall,” Mr. Lamb continued,” I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to showcase its ability to lead both choir and congregation in traditional Christmas music.”

“Another inspiration is that 2018 marks the centennial celebration of the creation of the original Festival at Cambridge,” added Mr. Lamb, who is also a professor of music and the director of choral activities for the Department of Performing and Visual Arts at Eastern Florida State College.

Choir member and soloist Tee Rockwell will sing the opening hymn, "Once in Royal David's City,” and the 65-member choir, along with the audience, will join in singing well-known songs such as “Silent Night," "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Angels From the Realms of Glory," "The First Noel” and "O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Church organist Tom Taylor will provide musical accompaniment and some songs will feature handbells or violin.

For more information, call the church office at 321-242-2585 or visit www.SuntreeUnitedMethodist.org.

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