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Bethlehem, Pa., December 22, 2008—Cable viewers throughout Pennsylvania will take a journey into the wonderful world of Christmastime in Bethlehem, Pa. and join Moravian College as it presents the 2008 Christmas Vespers from Central Moravian Church. The program will feature the Moravian Choir, under the direction of Paula Ring Zerkle, and the Women’s Chorus, under the direction of Eduardo Azzati, who perform a repertoire of sacred and spiritual songs from a wide variety of cultures.
The hour-long program will be broadcast statewide on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), which is available to cable subscribers throughout Pennsylvania, on December 24 at 8:15 p.m., and again at 9 a.m. on Christmas Day. Service Electric TV-2 will broadcast the program on December 24 at 9 p.m. Blue Ridge Communications TV-13, who produced the program, will air it on December 24 at 7 p.m., December 25 at 1 and 6 p.m.
In addition to the 2008 Vespers program, performances by the Moravian College Choir will be included in a national broadcast when CBS presents “The Voices of Christmas,” a television special to be aired on Christmas Eve – Wednesday, December 24, beginning at 11:35 p.m. Eastern Time – in observance of the 100th anniversary of the American ecumenical movement.
The Vespers service is an expression of two traditional forms of worship in the Moravian Church, the Singstunde and the Candlelight Service. A Moravian Singstunde (Singing Hour) is a service of music with no preaching. Since the 1720s, Moravians have been known for their worshipful singing. For the service, the music has been carefully selected and arranged to bring the Christmas message without need of a sermon. The Moravian candlelight service originated in 1747 in Marienborn, Germany, when candles with red trimming were distributed at the children’s Christmas service. Bethlehem’s first candle service was in 1756.
The program captures the essence of the services that are held in the beginning of December each year. Six services are attended by 6,000 members of the Moravian College Community who share in the beautiful candlelight ceremony that is distinctive of the Moravian tradition. Music by Moravian college students combines with the beauty of the Liturgy in this service of worship for the college community and friends. The beloved hymn “Morning Star,” traditionally sung with a child soloist, was composed in 1836 by Francis Florentine Hagen, a member of the Moravian Theological Seminary Class of 1835.
For more than four decades, the Moravian College Vespers has been held in Central Moravian Church. The structure, built between 1803 and 1806, is the worship center for Bethlehem’s first religious congregation. A striking feature of the neoclassical-style sanctuary is the absence of interior pillars to support the heavy roof and belfry. Instead, these are held in place by massive foundation walls, with 68-foot-long white oak timbers resting on the side walls. The belfry houses the oldest American-made tower clock, built in Bethlehem in 1754. The bell was hung in 1868.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America’s sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.