The school has many long standing and special traditions that are carried out during the school year. However, COVID-19 has complicated the situation of executing these traditions safely as faculty and staff want to ensure that they are following health and safety protocols.
Lessons and Carols is one of the school’s most well-established traditions, generally taking place after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. The tradition was intended to take place on Dec. 2 this year; however, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases and students learning remotely, it is now rescheduled for Thursday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Even though it will not be held like usual, students and faculty are excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this annual event.
“[Lessons and Carols is] one of our most long standing traditions and the holidays are just such a special time for our community,” Associate Head of School Ruth Burke said. “It’s just a really special service and I love seeing the performances of the students and the messages provided by the ten scriptures. This will actually be my 24th or 25th Lessons and Carols.”
Seniors and advisors were given the option to attend the event in person while students and others, a part of the community, will be sent a link to watch the service virtually. One of the main changes is that Lessons and Carols will now be held in All Saints Chapel
“We will have seniors and their advisors here in the chapel sitting socially distanced,” Reverend Tim Kennedy said. “Usually we have members of the board of trustees, the Swan family, and other V.I.Ps who are invited but of course this year we can’t do that, so it’s sad to have a smaller crowd.”
As music is a significant part of the tradition, choir students have had to adjust to COVID-19 regulations and find creative ways to have the ability to perform, especially seniors, who are wanting to perform one last time.
“This year we’re doing virtual recordings, so everyone has been recording their individual parts of the songs,” chorister and senior Emma Jerier said. “We’ve been recording some of the classic songs like ‘Deo Gracias’ and ‘Noël Noël’ and then all the seniors are singing ‘O Holy Night’ which we recorded virtually last week.”
Unfortunately, the band is unable to perform due to COVID-19 which many students are sad and frustrated about. Even though there will be music playing, other than the choir, throughout the service, Lessons and Carols will seem different without the band.
“We aren’t performing in Lessons and Carols which I’m sad about and when we go online, [due to spikes in cases], it’s not practical for students to play the violin online, so it’s been really difficult to do anything,” band student and junior Dani Nisbet said. “My favorite memory is when I got to play the piece ‘Good King Wenceslas’ with band, so I’m obviously sad I can’t make more memories.”
Planning the event has been very challenging as Reverend Kennedy and others want to do the service as normal as possible but, also making sure they’re ensuring the safety of people in the community.
“One of the things I love about lessons and carols is that everybody’s together,” Reverend Kennedy said. “There are usually so many people there it’s like [we’re] a family and so this year, it will just feel different with fewer people there.”
Although there will be changes to Lessons and Carols this year, the community is happy to commemorate a long standing tradition that celebrates everyone being together and the story of Christianity.
“It’s like if you’ve read a story a thousand times, you already know it,” Reverend Kennedy said. “But what I like about Lessons and Carols is that it often gives me an opportunity to think about the same story but in new and different ways in a new place. To think about this old story that’s plus 2,000 years old applies to me here today and to other people too is pretty neat.”