Holland College Blog

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Holland College celebrates the season with annual Festival of Carols and Lessons

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Business Administration student Jill Harris

For the last 26 years, students and staff from Holland College’s Charlottetown Centre have celebrated the season with the Festival of Carols and Lessons. It’s an hour of respite from the frequently hectic pace of this time of year, and a chance for the college community to come together to celebrate the season by sharing their talents.

This year was no exception. For the 27th time, staff and students gathered in the gym of the Charlottetown Centre last Wednesday afternoon to sing Christmas songs, read lessons, and to hear a Christmas story. Not all of the staff and students attend, but those who choose to, come away with a little more of the spirit of Christmas. Some staff members say that to them, the Festival of Carols and Lessons is what really signals the start of the season.

I have great admiration for people who can stand in front of a crowd of people and sing or play an instrument, so I tend to get choked up regardless of the calibre of the performer, which is always very high at these concerts. Yet there always seems to be one that leaves the audience with their mouths hanging open in amazement.

A couple of years ago, it was a young woman in the Culinary Arts program whose voice was so finely trained that the audience was bowled over by her performance (it turns out she had trained as an opera singer). This year, it was Business Administration student Jill Harris. Jill performed a medley of Walking in the Air and the Huron Carol – on her harp.

The gym in the Charlottetown Centre is in need of renovation, but as I listened to Jill’s performance my eyes wandered to some of the architectural details that whisper of its former glory, when it was first built in the late 1930s, and many musicians played there. I wondered how many other performances there elevated musicians and audiences out of their everyday lives for just a few minutes.

Holland College Drum Ensemble (L-R) Yasser, Kyle, Alan and Jason

There were many other highlights in the concert, including the percussive performance of Little Drummer Boy by the Holland College Drum Ensemble – Jason Campbell, from the Accounting Technology program; Yasser Mihareb from the Computer Information Systems program; Kyle Creamer, in the Environmental Applied Science Technology program; and Alan Dowling, Business Information Systems Development instructor and director of the Holland College Welshmen Community Band. These students have just taken up drumming, but they were great fun to watch and listen to.

Even though the concert is all about sharing and celebrating, there’s also a little rivalry that goes on between the male and female staff members’ choirs.  Legend has it that the women’s choir all but fizzled out for a while, leaving the men’s choir the privilege of gleefully performing their perennial favourite, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and scooping up kudos unchallenged.

Part of the Holland College Festival of Carols and Lessons women's choir

But last year, the tide turned. The women’s choir returned to the concert with several strong new voices. This year, they performed first, providing a richly textured version of Do You Hear What I Hear? and the audience was wowed. So, as it turns out, were some of the men. (See photo of Dr. McMillan below.)

The men’s performance was the final carol of the afternoon, and although attendance to the two pre-concert practices were low, their rendition was, as always, enthusiastic. The women, gracious in victory, applauded them loudly.

Student Services and volunteer students and staff put a great deal of time and effort into the concert. Facilities and Maintenance staff set up the gym, Terence McGaughey was responsible for sound, and Debi Forse decorated the room. The Charlottetown Centre Student Association, and the Business Studies, Hospitality and Tourism, Media and Computer Studies, Applied Sciences and Engineering, and Health and Community Services departments sponsored the event.  Thanks to everyone for once again putting together such an enjoyable concert.

President Brian McMillan, long-time member of the men’s choir, bows in deference to the women’s choir before reading The Legend of the Christmas Candle.

Part of the Holland College men's choir during their hearty rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.


Written by Sara Underwood

December 18, 2009 at 1:36 am

2 Responses

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  1. You summed it up perfectly….It is a great tradition..Another way to celebrate Holland College’s talents

    Debi Forse

    December 18, 2009 at 6:11 pm

  2. Excellent post Sarah! It’s so great that you take the time to write these bits of info on College life.

    Tawna MacLeod

    December 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm

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