Slate Magazine Features Singing Christmas Tree

The popular online magazine, Slate, sponsored by the Washington Post, features a story about the dominance of big extravagant singing Christmas Trees in churches.

They trace the roots (as we know) back to Belhaven College’s first singing Christmas tree in 1933.  Next year will be our 80th performance, and we’re hopeful of finding a way for many of our alumni to come back and participate in this historic occassion.

You can read the full story on Slate HERE, but below are a couple of excerpts:

Across the country, churches will soon be groaning at full capacity as millions of Americans, from the deeply devout to the twice-a-year attendees, pack their local congregations to participate in a Christmas Eve service. But this month, some of those churches will also present what has become a tradition in the modern evangelical megachurch: the Singing Christmas Tree. In these productions, church choirs perform a musical celebration while standing inside an enormous Christmas tree platform that reaches to the ceiling, often accompanied by extravagant light shows, dancing church members, and sometimes even fireworks. Displaying all the kitsch and some of the camp of your favorite Broadway musical, Singing Christmas Tree pageants represent the quintessence of the modern megachurch experience: oversized, ostentatious, and a strange blend of the sacred and the secular.

This is the paragraph about Belhaven

Like many of the showier elements of the modern megachurch, the Singing Christmas Tree had humble origins. The first Singing Christmas Tree likely took place in 1933 when a music professor at Belhaven College, a Christian liberal arts college in Jackson, Miss., teamed up with an engineer to craft a small wooden tree frame for the school’s all-female choir to stand in as it performed a series of Christmas carols. The concert took place outside so that members of the community could enjoy the event, and outdoor Singing Christmas Trees began to pop up on college campuses and in city parks in other cities throughout the South during the 1940s and ‘50s.

Clarion Ledger Feature Story

There was a wonderful story in the paper this morning about some of the Mississipi Universities having top quality academic programs.  The story started off featuring our dance department.

Top Miss. college programs take best of best
Jessica Bakeman
December 12, 2011

Ranging from Chinese language to creative writing to veterinary medicine, some programs at Mississippi’s colleges and universities attract more students than they can handle.

Students compete for admission and scholarship money, sure, but some find themselves vying for their top-choice major, too.

Erik Sampson, now a senior at Belhaven University, came to Jackson from Alfred, Maine, to audition for its dance program. The program

accepts about half of auditioners any given year, said Cynthia Newland, department chair.

For the 2011 class, 85 students auditioned, and 44 were asked to join.

“The caliber of dance teachers and the dancers that were going here kind of shocked me for a small school,” Sampson said of his audition, where he attended already-scheduled classes. “I figured if there was a small school with an excellent program like the bigger universities, I’d prefer the more intimate classes.”

Students who focus on performance and choreography, rather than pedagogy and research, must attend class five days a week in their emphasis, which can be either ballet or modern dance. With electives, the typical student might take as many as 10 dance classes per week, plus a liberal arts curriculum, said Laura Morton-Zebert, associate professor of dance.

Sampson began as a double major, with business, but later decided to focus all his energy on dance, in which he is earning the performance-focused degree. He plans to audition for a spot in a dance company or open a studio after graduation.

“The training here has been impeccable,” Sampson said. “I feel fully prepared to graduate and move on to bigger and better things.”

You can read the remainder of the story HERE.

“Belhaven University seniors Erik Sampson and Marah King perform in November. The program is one of several at campuses statewide that are becoming more selective. – Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Stories from Fitzhugh Hall

We have opened a blog for alumni, faculty, and staff to share their stories from Fitzhugh Hall.  You can find it HERE.  Tell us your story.

This is a great story posted Saturday by Kelli Albritton Irby:

I met my now husband, Tim Irby at Belhaven my Freshman year. We began dating soon after and when I moved over to Fitzhugh Hall, I lived on the second floor, corner room, facing the big magnolia tree. We had no bell system, like in Helen White, to call you when you had a visitor in the lobby, so when Tim came over, he pitched small rocks up to my window, calling me down. I knew there had to be a better system so I attached a bell to my blinds cord, cut one end, tied a knot and ran the excess out my window for Tim to grab and ring instead of throwing rocks at my window. It worked. For those three years, that is how my husband would call me down to meet him. …I still have the bell.

And Tom Maynor from Meridian tells of his engagement to Ann in Fitzhugh:

I met my future wife Ann on her first day on campus.  Our first date was to the Mississippi State Fair on October 6 1957.  We dated throughout our college years. I gave her an engagement ring in the Fitzhugh palor, Christmas 1961.  She lived on the third floor of Fitzhugh.  Every night at 10 pm I would meet her for a visit in the basement of Fitzhugh. We graduated and were married in 1961, and we just celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Fitzhugh holds a lot of wonderful memories for us. I pray Fitzhugh can be saved.