The University's annual Christmas Carol Services, the oldest such services in the Western hemisphere, were held last night for the 87th time at Memorial Church.
The church was filled to capacity for the services, which featured carol singing by the University Choir and prayers delivered by Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Minister in the Memorial Church Peter J. Gomes and the Rev. Janet H. Legro.
"I have always loved [this service]. It is beautiful and it begins the Christmas season," said Catherine A. Galbraith, wife of Professor Emeritus John Kenneth Galbraith, who has been attending the services since 1948. "I like the old carols and there are always some new ones."
The tradition of the Carol Services began in 1910 when Archibald T. Davison, the University Choir master and organist, and Edward C. Moore, then Plummer professor of Christian morals, started the tradition.
Two years later, Davison invited Radcliffe women to join the choir as well. The choir became permanently open to women in 1958.
The carols included classics like Felix Mendelssohn's "Ave Maria," as well as pieces commissioned for the service, most notably "Lo, there is light!", by Matthew Orlovich, a 26-year-old doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney.
The services--older than Cambridge University's by eight years--concluded with the traditional singing of "Silent Night." Choir members stood with candles along the side aisles of the church, as grandparents, couples with babies and students sang along in English and German.
The rendition commemorated Christmas Day in 1914, when "Allied and German forces climbed out of the trenches and gathered in no man's land to sing this carol," according to notes published by Memorial Church.
Audience members, first-timers and annual participants alike said they liked the services.
"I enjoyed it very much. This is the second time I have been to this service and I intend to keep on coming," said Ronald Arnett, a musician.
He added that the event was particularly special for him, since he has sung with the choirs of King's College at Cambridge and Westminster Abbey in London.
The services will be repeated at 8 p.m. tonight.
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