Annual Elkhart Christmas Candlelight Service has excellent attendance
December 4, 2012, Photos and story By Phil Bertoni and Gillette Ransom , , , , ,, The annual Elkhart Christmas Candlelight Service was held in the beautiful historic St. John The Baptist Chapel last Saturday in the Elkhart Cemetery. The Church holds 70 persons and nearly 280 guests filled the spectacular stone chapel for the four services to listen to “The Music of Christmas”, a magnificent music and theme-oriented performance brought to life by the singing of a quartet and backed up by the play of two harps and a guitarist, which all added to this exquisite setting.
Marueen Douglas & Tanya Conrady on Celtic harps, Tim Gleason, guitar
These candlelight services are offered by the Elkhart Historical Society and are unique every year, with selected music to fit a new theme which is related by a narrator. This year, the backgrounds of all the selections were discussed at two of the performances by narrator Mark McDonald of “Illinois Stories”. Mike Drake, pastor of Atwood United Church of Christ, did the narration honors for the other two services.
Typically, each musical selection – whether it is sung or played or in accompaniment – has a interesting historical background that is explained in the narration. This year, Mark McDonald added a very special treat with his personally well-written and beautifully-sung Christmas piece, “Did You Understand, Dear Mary?” Some of the other selections rendered were: “Of the Father’s Heart Begotten”, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “The Parting Glass”, “Greensleeves”, “What Child is This”, “God Rest Ye Merry”, “Winter’s Moon” and “We’ll Dress the House”. Some of the traditional pieces filling out the performance were: “Adeste Fideles”, “O come All Ye Faithful”, “Away in the Manger”, “O Holy Night”, and “Silent Night”.
The original services started in 1988 and were ecumenical, with the Pastors of each of the three Elkhart Churches presiding on a rotational basis. After a few years, the chapel closed for renovation. When it reopened two years later, the Elkhart Historical Society began to orchestrate the event. The services are held in the 122 year old St. John The Baptist Chapel (circa 1890 by the Culver Stone and Marble Company), which was built in memory of John Dean Gillett, the well-known mid-to-late 1800’s cattle baron of central Illinois, who was home-based in the Elkhart township. Always decorated with holly, pine and candlelight, the services are not only visually pleasing but also a joy to the ear. Many of the people who attend credit the services as the official start of their Christmas season.
As a sorrowful footnote, the Celtic harp that Maureen Douglas has been using for over 20 years accidently toppled over and broke. Such wooden harps cannot usually be fixed to what they originally sounded. So, the not-for-profit Elkhart Historical Society is sponsoring a collection to help defray the expense of a new Celtic harp procurement in Seattle, Wa., where her old one was made many years ago. Anyone wishing to donate to the travel and harp procurement fund can do so by sending a check to the Elkhart Historical Society P.O. Box 255 Elkhart, IL 62634.
In addition to Maureen at the harp and penny whistle, the performers were: Tanya Conrady (Celtic harp), Tim Gleason (6 & 12 string guitars), Jeanette Spencer, Lacy Hall, Connie and Mike Drake (quartet). As usual, all of the performers donated their time, energy and expertise.