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85th Morehouse-Spelman Christmas Carol Concert Gives Community a Gift of Music

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.



Back in 1927, Morehouse College Glee Club director Kemper Harreld and Spelman College president Florence Matilda Read thought it would be a great idea to give the Atlanta community a Christmas gift of music.

The glee clubs for both colleges, along with one at Atlanta University, would do a free Christmas concert together for the entire community. Harreld was also the also the director of the Spelman College Glee Club.

So on Dec. 21, 1927, in the newly built Sisters Chapel (which was the largest chapel of the three institutions at the time), the first Christmas Carol Concert thrilled a huge crowd.

Eighty-five years later, the concert has grown from a one-performance affair into a soaring trifecta, alternating over three days on both the Morehouse and Spelman campuses. It also has become, for many, the
musical beginning of the Christmas season.

“Some people say they’ve been going to the concert all of their lives,” said Morehouse’s Glee Club director David Morrow ’80, who also performed in the concert each year when he was a member of the Glee Club. “It’s a performance that we look forward to. It’s such a wonderful tradition.”

The 85th Annual Morehouse-Spelman Christmas Carol Concert will be held in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 and at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4. It will be held in its first home, Sisters Chapel at Spelman, on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. (Performances are free and open to the public, but the Dec. 3 performance requires a complimentary ticket. Go to http://www.spelman.edu/christmascarol/index.shtml for more information.)

Standing room only audiences who overflowed in Sisters Chapel for decades forced the concert having to be moved to Morehouse, at least for a few of the annual performances, when King Chapel was built in 1978.

The audience will be even larger this year because for the first time, the Sunday performance will be available for viewing, via Internet web stream. The live stream will be available at www.morehouse.edu/Christmascarol.

“It’s amazing to me how much the concert keeps growing,” Morrow said.

No matter the venue, concertgoers have each year been treated to a unique program of standard carols, special arrangements of traditional Christmas songs and spirituals.

The two glee clubs perform some pieces together and others individually, which requires rehearsals that begin in October.

“We rehearse twice a week,” Morrow said. “One day both Glee Clubs are with Spelman’s director Kevin Johnson and then the next day here at Morehouse with me. And that’s just the mixed chorus. Then the individual choruses rehearse.

“The guys really like to collaborate with the Spelman College Glee Club and both groups get to go back and forth to each other’s campus to create this music,” he said. “It’s a wonderful camaraderie.”

But because the concerts are for the community, Morrow and Johnson said they want people to leave with hearts filled with the Christmas spirit. That’s exactly what Reed and Harreld intended 85 years ago.

“I hope they leave feeling they have heard some good music and they are ready for the Christmas season,” Morrow said. “I am told that many people will go home and decorate their Christmas trees. Another guy told me that his Christmas doesn’t begin until he hears the Christmas Carol Concert. If that’s what it does, then we’ve done what we are supposed to do.”

Go to www.morehouse.edu/christmascarol to get more information bout the concert and view the Dec. 4 performance.

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