AU Traditions: Candles and Carols
BY JACEY CRAWFORD WILLIAMS ’21
2 MIN. READ
“The Anderson College Choir will present several Christmas musical selections this evening at the annual Christmas concert, presented by the music department,” reads the December 13, 1965 issue of the Andersonian, AU’s student newspaper.
For the past half-century, Candles and Carols has been enjoyed by Anderson University students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the Anderson community. What began in 1964 as an event at Park Place Church of God on the AU campus to sing traditional carols of the season quickly expanded when members of the Anderson community were invited to attend.
The audience soon grew so large that Park Place Church could no longer contain all the guests, so a venue change was in order. Now held in AU’s Reardon Auditorium, the event draws crowds of thousands who want to take part in the decades-old Christmas tradition.
The event celebrates the coming Christmas season by showcasing student talent. Hundreds of students from the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance come together to perform in one of the biggest campus events of the year.
From the late ’80s until 2014, the program was aired on more than 100 PBS stations across the country, as well as two international cable networks.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Wright, dean of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, it’s important for every campus to have its traditions that connect it to those who came before. For AU, he said, one of those traditions is Candles and Carols.
“Because it is unique to AU, it continues to be a meaningful way of celebrating our history. It will soon reach its 60th anniversary, but it still seems fresh,” he said.
Theo Hicks ’10, who will be taking over as AU’s director of Chorale activities and voice coordinator in fall 2021, said that Candles and Carols was one of the main events he looked forward to every year during his time as an AU student.
“Candles and Carols has been a staple for the Anderson community for as long as I can remember,” he said. “The performance enables a wonderful sense of collaboration in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, and really emulates the true spirit of the season.”
Although the ensembles and groups that participate in the tradition have slowly changed over the years, those who attend Candles and Carols can usually expect to enjoy AU’s Chorale, wind ensemble, orchestra, women’s chorus, and dance groups.
For Alyssa (Campbell) Huff ’17, a former member of AU’s women’s chorus, Candles and Carols never failed to be her favorite performance each year.
“Candles and Carols always had a way of bringing everyone together,” said Huff. “Looking out at the sea of candlelight as the audience raised their candles in unison as we sang the final verse [of the night] — it was always such an incredible reminder of what the Christmas season is all about.”
Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.