news-category: Performing Arts

Gardner-Webb’s Annual Festival of Lights Begins Celebration of Christmas Season

The GWU choir sings at last year's festival of lights.

Community Invited to Join the Campus on Nov. 30 to Experience the Sights and Sounds of the Season

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Gardner-Webb’s annual program to welcome the Christmas season—Festival of Lights—will be celebrated on Nov. 30, which coincides with the University’s celebration of Founders Day. A beloved campus and community Christmas tradition since 1984, Festival of Lights will be held at 7 p.m. in Dover Theatre. Featuring performances by GWU music groups, the program includes the reading of the Christmas story and carol singing.

“This year’s celebration of Festival of Lights will be a delight,” shared Dr. Joshua Cheney, director of Choral Activities at Gardner-Webb. “The Department of Music is so excited that one of our major ensembles, the GW Orchestra, will be joining the performance in 2023! The performance will feature four faculty conductors, a student conductor, multi-ensemble joint performance, seasonal favorites, and opportunities for those in the audience to sing along.”

President Dr. William Downs will welcome the audience and give the opening prayer. Vice President and University Chaplain for Christian Life and Service Dr. Josh Parrot will present the Old and New Testament readings and offer the closing prayer.

Cheney described the musical program for the evening, which begins with Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 performed by the Gardner-Webb Orchestra. “It’s immediately followed by ‘Noel,’ a raucous setting of an African carol for the GW choirs,” Cheney noted. “The newly renamed Webb Chorale, the GW choir for treble voices, will present two selections entitled ‘Deck the Halls in 7/8’ and ‘How Great our Joy’; each of which is a setting of a famous carol.”

Following Webb Chorale, the audience will have its first opportunity to join in the music by singing the traditional carol, “O Come, all ye Faithful.” Then, for the first time at Festival of Lights, GW Choirs and the GW Orchestra will join together to present “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” Dan Forrest’s rendition of the beloved Christmas carol.

The Orchestra continues with a setting of “O Holy Night” before the newly named Gardner Singers, the GW choir for tenor and bass voices, present the delightful and energetic “Goin’ to Bethlehem” and the contemplative “Alleluia,” from “Vigilia de Navidad.”

The audience, choirs, and orchestra will again join together for “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” before Concert Choir offers a newly composed setting of the “Magnificat” text by Cheney. “Magnificat” will be directed by senior music business major Grace Schiefen, who has served as the ensemble’s student conductor in the Fall 2023 semester.

Concert Choir will conclude its set with a performance of the rousing setting of the traditional “Gaudete” by Michael Engelhardt. The evening’s performance will conclude with the singing of “Silent Night,” led by Department of Music Chair Dr. Aaron Rice.

Afterward, the audience will walk along a luminaria-lighted path to participate in the lighting of the campus tree in front of Tucker Student Center. Then, refreshments will be served in Tucker.

Auxiliary aids will be made available to persons with disabilities upon request 10 working days prior to the event.  Please call 704-406-4270 or email [email protected] with your request.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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