America's Oldest Singing Christmas Tree Celebrates 85 Years
November 6, 2017 (Jackson, Miss.) – For the past 85 years, students have readied their voices and gathered on a 35-foot tall structure to be part of the oldest singing Christmas tree tradition in the United States.
The Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree is the first and oldest of its kind. Since its creation in 1933, the tree frame has grown taller, candles were exchanged for LED lights, voices and music were amplified and more singers were added each year.
Today, the 35-foot tall wood and metal tree structure holds over 100 men and women. The LED lights change colors in various patterns and sequences according to the character of each Christmas carol, creating a visual spectacle for listeners.
Mignonne Caldwell, the originator of Belhaven’s tree and music professor, came up with the idea as a way to give back to the surrounding community. Caldwell recruited college engineer Mr. C. V. McLain to construct the first wooden tree frame for the choir to stand on. Caldwell’s concert idea became a reality and debuted to the public in December 1933. After the success of the first performance, it became a yearly tradition.
This year will mark the 85th anniversary of this special concert. Both performances on December 1-2 are free to the public and will take place at the Belhaven Bowl Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
All alumni and current students are invited to sing on the tree this year. Interested alumni can participate by simply completing this form and letting the University know which of the following rehearsal times they can attend. Only one rehearsal is required to take part in the singing Christmas tree again.
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 Christmas carol favorites.
Ms. Bettye Quinn, Associate Professor of Education and Director of Elementary Education, has attended the event for 78 years and remembers seeing the tree for the first time. Quinn said, I remember when I was three in 1937 and a family friend brought me to see the Belhaven singing Christmas tree for the first time. At the time the tree was a group of 50 girls on a platform between the columns, they had on white robes and held bright lights that reflected into the lagoon. It was just a glorious sight for a little child to see. I have come every year since to see the Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree.
Belhaven’s Singing Christmas Tree was named one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, and it continually draws in thousands of people each year. The Singing Christmas Tree tradition continues serving the Jackson community by providing a spiritually edifying, fun-filled event of visual and musical splendor.
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