Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Strings players Joseph Pelote (’24), Ellie Anderson (’23) and Anisa Phillip (’24) perform during the annual Candlelight Concert.

Tradition Reimagined: A Candlelight Journey

Story by Janel Ware

The Candlelight Concert is a treasured Shenandoah Valley Academy (SVA) tradition, a gift from the Music Department to the community. This year, programming had to change because of health precautions. “As executive orders tightened in November, God led the way to join the Music Department efforts with the New Market campus church’s annual Journey to Bethlehem production and moving the combined outreach presentation online,” shares Daniel Biaggi, music director.

With time and resources short, God worked through students and church members to share the beautiful story of Jesus. Led by Biaggi; strings and orchestra director Kelly Wiedemann (’03); and program director Darlene Anderson, the entire production had to be prerecorded, and filming began immediately. Actors committed to long periods of filming and musicians to late nights to achieve the best takes.

“In the past, music groups would have had at least two more weeks to prepare their music. Students and directors learned to adapt quickly to changing situations,” says musician and choir member Emily White (’21).

“The students who rose to the occasion left me in awe. We learned to be adaptable, patient and persevering. Audio and video recording at this level is all new for us! The students were professional and focused as we all learned together,” shares Wiedemann.

The students and directors deeply felt the potential impact of telling the story of Jesus through this new method. “God’s blessings and presence were felt in serious moments when students were tired, restarting a piece for the umpteenth time, and also in moments when they played their best and burst into relieved laughter after the cut-off,” says Wiedemann. “In general, the pandemic resulted in a greater appreciation of the time we have in school together and for the power in music ministry. Being a part of it has brought immense comfort to teachers and students alike, and we are humbled by the impact the program has had on more than 4,000 viewers on the SVA and church
YouTube channels.”

The premiere finally arrived, and students gathered with their families to watch the results. “Some of us were able to watch on a big screen ‘drive-in’ in the church parking lot, along with neighbors from the community. As the event began, a lot of us texted back and forth, excited to see the final cut,” shares White.

“God provided resources to make the project a reality through people from SVA, the church, the community, from God’s people here in the United States and abroad,” Biaggi testifies. “The opportunity to be used by the Holy Spirit has been a blessing to everyone who participated in this wonderful ministry. We pray that all who view this telling of the greatest story ever told—of Jesus’ truth and grace—will be drawn into a deeper relationship with Him as Savior and Friend.”

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