HENDERSON, Ky. – One of the community’s oldest-running events, the Alice P. Taylor Candlelight Service, is set for this Sunday, Dec. 4, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Henderson.
For several decades, the ecumenical service focusing on sacred music has kicked off the Christmas season in Henderson.
The 2016 service will be no different, and will feature music by the Henderson County High School Chamber Choir, an HCHS Brass Ensemble, selections from Community Chorale, two harpists, soloists and small vocal ensembles, readings and congregational carol singing.
Musicians include organist Evalyn Champion, Kate Kelsey (harp), The Griffin Sisters (Diane Crowder, Kathy Noblett, Julie Adkins and Sandra Farley) accompanied by Mike Nation, Richard Cox accompanied by Heather McCormick, Emily Sights Fife (harp), Phillip Morgan accompanied by Heather McCormick and Gabrielle Coomes accompanied by Kaleb Hilton.
Performers for the service represent several of the community’s churches.
One change for this year: There will not be a 30-minute organ prelude before the Candlelight Service begins. The service itself starts right at 4 p.m.
The service is traditionally held on the first Sunday of December.
A little history:
Musician Alice P. Taylor moved to Henderson from San Francisco in 1897 after she married a young local attorney named N. Powell Taylor.
According to a 2009 article by Yesterday’s News columnist Frank Boyett in The Gleaner, her marriage brought to a close her professional operatic and concert career, but that certainly didn’t mean she stopped making music.
As early as 1903, Taylor was assisting with local organ recitals, and then followed with the 1924 formation of the Henderson Music Club, which organized recitals, pageants and concerts. Taylor was the first elected president of the club that eventually created an annual Christmas Candlelight Service.
Some believe the first Christmas Candlelight Service took place in 1931, and others think it was even earlier. In 1951, the Henderson Music Club (led by the late Becky Lackey) added Taylor’s name to the service to honor her. For five years, until her death in 1956, Taylor was honored at the service with a special seat adorned with a big red bow and a corsage from the Music Club. From 1951 to 1979 Lackey coordinated each year’s event.
The Henderson Music Club dissolved about 20 years ago, but dedicated volunteers including Dianne Wham and Heather McCormick handled the organizational details for about 15 years until former First United Methodist Church Director of Music Ministries Matthew Vanover took over the organizational duties for a while.
Now the torch has been passed back to McCormick, along with Susan Sauls and Donna B. Stinnett.
Former organizer Vanover summed it up nicely in his final year of organizing this event beloved by the community.
“The Alice P. Taylor service is a great venue for community musicians to share their talents in a little bit broader way,” he said. “Most of them sing or play at their own churches, but this is one step beyond. There’s really nothing else quite like it for the rest of the year.”