Eighty-One Years of Holiday Cheer

The Voices of Lessons and Carols

Lessons and Carols, BSC’s longest standing seasonal event, is celebrating its 81st year with performances at Canterbury United Methodist Church on December 1st and 3rd. This service of Christmas carols and spiritual lessons is a Hilltop tradition loved by people all across campus and in the Birmingham community. Not only is it a perfect way to kick off the holiday season, but it is also a big event for the Concert Choir and a chance for the Alumni Choir to stay connected with its BSC family.

Photo courtesy of Maddie Sampson, Instagram @bsc_concertchoir

Photo courtesy of Maddie Sampson, Instagram @bsc_concertchoir

Lessons and Carols provides a chance for people in all departments to get involved in a meaningful campus tradition. If you have not been convinced to come yet, read these testimonies from four people who have been a part of bringing us the “Lessons” and the “Carols” for several years.


Virginia Cade ’18, Concert Choir Member

“I love Lessons and Carols! Amid all of the stress of finals, it’s a good time to come together as peers and colleagues and take your mind off of everything you have to do and just lean back and relax. The music is always so uplifting, and those who speak and [read] the Scriptures really engage everyone. I think the most powerful part of the performance, though, is when the current BSC choirs come together with the Alumni Choir to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. I get goose bumps every time. It really puts everyone in the holiday spirit.”

Jordan Crenshaw ’11, BSC’s Associate Director of Admission and Alumni Choir Member

“I participated in Lessons and Carols every year during my time as a student at BSC. It always signified the start of the holiday season (and finals). I love listening to the Celesta during transitions and feeling the expectant excitement of Christmas. I joined the Alumni Choir to continue this [iconic] Birmingham-Southern tradition. I love that I can continue singing with friends from my college days, as well as meet other alums.”

Reverend Julie Holly, BSC Chaplain, “Lessons”

“For our annual Lessons and Carols service, I recruit Scripture readers from across the Birmingham-Southern College community, including alumni, faculty, staff, and students. The students who serve as readers always find it to be a meaningful experience to participate in this beautiful Christmas service and often ask for the opportunity to read for future services. To identify potential readers for the Lessons and Carols service, I do several things, including brainstorming names on my own, asking students for suggestions, and simply responding to individual requests to participate in the service. It is our tradition to invite the President of the college to lead the final reading of the Friday night service.” 

Dr. Lester Seigel, of Music and Alumni and Concert Choir Director, “Carols”

Photo Courtesy of Birmingham-Southern College, Flickr.com

Photo Courtesy of Birmingham-Southern College, Flickr.com

“The BSC Carol Service is the oldest BSC holiday tradition and is among the oldest continuing holiday choral events in the city. This will be the 81st year it has been held. Every year, BSC students, alumni, parents, and friends fill the church at Canterbury for the Friday and the Sunday afternoon services, and it is really the most wonderful way to begin the holiday season! This will be my 24th year conducting in the service.

Normally, I conduct the BSC Concert Choir, and in the last decade or so I’ve also become conductor of the Alumni Choir, a dedicated group of former choir members of all ages who rehearse each year to participate. For decades, the Carol Service was held at the former McCoy Methodist Church, which is across the street from the President’s House. In 1993, the Methodist Conference closed McCoy as a church, which meant that we had to find a new home that worked musically and logistically. Canterbury UMC generously opened its doors to us, and it has worked so well that we’ve been holding the service there ever since 1994. Though the church is across town, it’s still very much a [Birmingham-Southern] College event.

The music we sing is always a mixture of old and new with some familiar Christmas carols and less-familiar choral music for the season, and this year’s is no exception. I hope everyone in our College community will plan to attend one of the two services, and I look forward to seeing our BSC family there.”


This event also counts as a culture credit. Be sure to make plans to come out to Canterbury on December 1st at 7:30 p.m. or December 3rd at 4:30 p.m. Come be a part of the tradition and help celebrate 81 years of spreading holiday cheer with the community.

Feature photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash