Singing Christmas Tree

Performed at 7:30, Friday and Saturday
First weekend in December
Named One Of The Top 20 Events In The Southeast

Singing TreeBelhaven's Singing Christmas Tree is a rich Belhaven tradition, enjoyed by more than a thousand people each year. This annual event, started in 1933, is considered to be the world's oldest outdoor singing Christmas tree tradition.

In the tree's infancy, Belhaven music professor Mignonne Caldwell conducted an all female choir in a Christmas tree formation during an informal gathering for faculty and students before their holiday break. Realizing that members of the community would enjoy witnessing this event, Caldwell moved the concert outside, between Preston and Fitzhugh Halls. The first wooden tree frame for the choir was constructed by Mr. C. V. McLain, a College engineer. Thus, the outdoor Belhaven College (now Belhaven University) Singing Christmas Tree tradition was born.

Caldwell directed the outdoor Singing Christmas Tree event until her retirement in 1962.  At that time, Henry Thomas Ford, Director of the Concert Choir, began directing the Tree.  Belhaven had since become a co-educational institution so Ford added men to the chorus. A new, taller tree frame was constructed to accommodate the new male voices.

Today, members of the Belhaven Concert Choir, along with alumni, faculty and staff, typically perform the outdoor Singing Christmas Tree concert on the first weekend in December.  A large new 35 foot tall wooden and metal tree structure accommodates up to 100 singers. Performers wear white robes with reflective collars and tiaras to heighten the visual impact of the tree. While singing, singers hold large strands of lights which change colors in various patterns and sequences according to the character of each Christmas carol creating a visual spectacle for the listeners.

Certain traditions have become expected elements to the tree. An auditioned soloist is positioned under the star located at the very top of the tree. This honored soloist performs "O Holy Night" near the Tree's conclusion. Other traditions include artificial snowfall during "White Christmas" and humorous "insider jokes" interposed into the lyrics of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and other secular carols.

Singing Christmas TreeThe second half of the Singing Christmas Tree celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ through Scripture and sacred carols. The great sacred music of Christmas offers a great opportunity for Belhaven University to testify of the lordship and saving grace of Jesus Christ to the large numbers of attendees.

The Singing Christmas Tree tradition continues serving the Jackson community by providing a spiritually edifying, fun-filled event of visual and musical splendor.

Would you like to participate?

If you sing and are a student, staff, faculty, alumnus, or a family member of one of these persons, send an e-mail to Dr. Christopher Shelt, at cshelt@belhaven.edu.  You will receive a schedule of rehearsals and performances, and a commitment contract to sign if you decide to participate.


See news release published December 2008:

Southern Living highlights a Belhaven Christmas Tradition

Belhaven's oldest and most famous tradition–the Singing Christmas Tree–is highlighted in the December 2008 edition of Southern Living magazine: "If heaven had a school choir, this would be it," begins the article by Farrah Austin. Everyone familiar with the Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree knows that it is a special event for the entire community. As Austin notes, "-families gather to witness what most call the start of the holiday season in Jackson, Mississippi."

For over 75 years, families, students, and neighbors have flocked to the Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree, and large crowds are expected once again this year, with an estimated number in the thousands. Roberta Sachs, junior voice major, will be at the tree's pinnacle as the chosen soloist. Eighty students will don their robes and hold their lights, forming the yearly glow that fills the campus with joyful sounds. Mrs. Carolyn Sachs, adjunct music faculty member, will direct the choir.


See news release published on November 14, 2005:

Named One Of The Top 20 Events In The Southeast –
BELHAVEN COLLEGE’S 73rd ANNUAL SINGING CHRISTMAS TREE SET FOR DECEMBER 2 & 3

Belhaven College will host its 73rd Annual presentation of the Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree on December 2-3.  A Belhaven tradition since 1933, the event was recently name one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, an organization dedicated to the marketing and promotion of travel to and within the great Southeastern States. 

“What a wonderful honor given to such a timeless southern tradition,” said Dr. Roger Parrott, president, Belhaven College. “We are thankful for the privilege to present the Singing Christmas Tree on our campus as a gift to Mississippi, now for more than seven decades.  And, we are pleased the replicas of the Singing Christmas Tree have carried forward in thousands of churches all around the world during the Christmas season.”

The Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree is an outdoor choral performance of the holiday season’s favorite carols.  This year, the concert will feature the collaboration of members of the greater Jackson community and college musicians under the direction of Mrs. Carolyn Sachs, adjunct music professor.

 

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