These candlelight services are offered by the Elkhart Historical
Society and are unique every year, with selected music to fit a new
theme, which is related by a narrator. At two of the performances
this year, the backgrounds of all the selections were discussed by
narrator Mark McDonald of "Illinois Stories." Mike Drake, pastor of
the Atwood United Church of Christ, was the narrator for the other
Typically, each musical selection -- whether it is
sung or played or used in accompaniment -- has an interesting
historical background that is explained in the narration.
This year, McDonald added a special treat with his personally
well-written and beautifully sung Christmas piece, "Did You
Understand, Dear Mary?"
Some of the other selections were "Of the Father's Heart
Begotten," "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent," "Angels We Have Heard
on High," "The Parting Glass," "Greensleeves," "What Child Is This,"
"God Rest Ye Merry," "Winter's Moon" and "We'll Dress the House."
Some of the traditional pieces filling out the performance were "Adeste
Fideles," "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Away in a Manger," "O Holy
Night" and "Silent Night."
The original services started in 1988 and were ecumenical, with
the pastors of each of the three Elkhart churches presiding on a
After a few years the chapel closed for renovation, and when it
reopened two years later, the Elkhart Historical Society began to
orchestrate the event.
The services are in the 122-year-old St. John the Baptist Chapel
(circa 1890 by the Culver Stone and Marble Co.), which was built in
memory of John Dean Gillett, the well-known mid- to- late-1800s
cattle baron of central Illinois, whose home base was in the Elkhart
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Always enhanced with holly, pine and candlelight, the services
are not only visually pleasing but also a joy to the ear. For many
of the people who attend, the services are the official start of
their Christmas season.
As a sorrowful footnote, the Celtic harp that Maureen Douglas has
been using for over 20 years accidentally toppled over and broke.
Such wooden harps cannot usually be fixed to restore how they
originally sounded. So, the not-for-profit Elkhart Historical
Society is sponsoring a collection to help defray the expense of a
new Celtic harp procurement in Seattle, Wash, where the broken one
was made many years ago. Anyone wishing to donate to the travel and
harp procurement fund can do so by sending a check to the Elkhart
Historical Society, P.O. Box 255, Elkhart, IL 62634 -- and note
In addition to Douglas at the harp and pennywhistle, the
performers were Tanya Conrady, with another Celtic harp; Tim
Gleason, with six- and 12-string guitars; and a quartet of Jeanette
Spencer, Lacy Hall, and Connie and Mike Drake. As usual, all of the
performers donated their time, energy and expertise.
[Text from file received]