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NBC to Broadcast Moravian College Vespers on Christmas Day

“The Music of Vespers from Bethlehem...the Christmas City” will air on NBC in 13 cities

Bethlehem, Pa., December 20, 2006—NBC-TV viewers around the country will take a journey into the wonderful world of Christmastime in Bethlehem, Pa. and join Moravian College as they present their traditional Vespers Service at Central Moravian Church. Thirteen NBC affiliates, including WCAU TV-10 in Philadelphia, will air The Music of Vespers from Bethlehem...the Christmas City on Christmas day. 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 program will be broadcast statewide on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), which is available to cable subscribers throughout Pennsylvania, on December 24 at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (repeated).  Locally, Service Electric TV-2 will broadcast the program on December 24 at 8 p.m.  Blue Ridge Communications TV-13 will air the program on December 24 at 6:30 p.m., December 25 at 3 p.m., and December 27 at 3:30 p.m.

Through Interfaith Broadcasting Council and the National Council of Churches, the one hour program of Moravian’s Vespers from 2005 produced by Blue Ridge Communications TV-13 was offered exclusively to NBC-TV affiliates. “The Music of Vespers from Bethlehem...the Christmas City”  will be broadcast on December 25 on the following NBC affiliates: WFLA, TV-08 in Tampa, FL, 5:00 a.m.; WGEM TV10 , Quincy, IL, 6:00 a.m.; WLUC TV06 , Negaunee, MI, 5:30 a.m.; KYTV TV03, Springfield, MO,  4:00 a.m.; WXII TV12  NBC, Winston-Salem, NC, 5:00 a.m.; WLIO TV35  NBC, Lima, OH,12:00 a.m.; JRH TV02  NBC, Tulsa, OK,  5:00 a.m., WCAU TV10  NBC, Bala Cynwyd, PA,  5:00 a.m.; WCBD TV02, Mount Pleasant, SC, 5:00 a.m.; KGNS TV08, Laredo, TX, 6:00 a.m.; WGBA TV26,  Green Bay, WI, 2:05 a.m.; WTMJ TV04, Milwaukee, WI, 11:00 a.m.; and WSAZ TV03, Huntington, WV, 5:00 a.m.

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.

Music selections included in the program are O magnum mysterium, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-94), liturgy for Christmas matins; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, Veni Emanuel, medieval antiphon; Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), Genesis; Paradise Lost by John Milton; Sicut Cervus, Rosephane Dunn Powell (b. 1962); Psalm 23, Z. Randall Stroope (b. 1953); Nigra Sum, Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Song of Solomon; Jesus, Call Thou Me, Jesu, rufe mich, Adam Drese (1620-1701); Tunggare! (Sing!), Stephen Leek (b. 1959), Australian aboriginal chant; Precious Lord, Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), arr. Arnold Sevier; Hodie Christus natus est, William Mathias (1934-92),  antiphon for Christmas Eve;  Ah, from a little child, Carlyle Sharpe (b. 1965), Walt Whitman (1819-92);  Here’s a Pretty Little Baby Christmas Spiritual, arr. André J. Thomas; God Is Seen, arr. Alice Parker (b. 1925); Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, Imant Raminsh (b. 1943), Psalms 149 and 150; On This Day Earth Shall Ring, Gustav Holst (1874-1934) Swedish carol; Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Picardy, Liturgy of St. James; Behold a Great, a Heavenly Light, Vom Himmel hoch, St. Ambrose (a.d. 340-397); Good Christians, now rejoice, In dulci jubilo, Henry Suso (c. 1300); Morning Star, Francis Florentine Hagen (1815–1907), Johann Scheffler (1624–77); Angels, from the Realms of Glory, Regent Square, James Montgomery (1771–1854); and Toccata on “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” David Lasky.

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.