Lumina: What’s It All About?
On Our Minds, December 2011 by Charles Cofone
Lumina is not just on my mind at this time of year. If the excitement and enthusiasm of the all-school rehearsal on Tuesday is any indication, it’s certainly on the students’ minds as well. There were comments of “this is my FAVORITE” whenever the next title flashed on the screen.
Since the 1920s, Lincoln has had a community celebration immediately preceding winter break. In the 1920s the celebration was simply Grade 1 reciting the Christmas story. Eventually it grew in importance and size with the infusion of new points of view into Vespers, as it came to be called. T. James Hallan, Lincoln’s beloved Upper School music teacher and Lambrequins director from the mid-1950s, and Vivian Fanning, an equally beloved Lower School music teacher, made the event into the legacy that so many alumnae cherish among their dearest Lincoln memories. Its format at that point had grown into a kind of concert performance involving Grades 1-3 dressed in little white shoulder-length capes with huge red bows, the Lambrequins, vocal ensemble, handbells and a tableau vivant of the Nativity pageant originally performed by Grade 6 and later by Grade 5 when Grade 6 moved to the Middle School.
Sandra Reinbold and I raised the bar again in the mid-1980s when I arrived as the Lower School music teacher. Sandra designed and made her beautiful sets, and together we transformed the arrival of the Three Magi from a walk-on from the wings to a procession with canopies and servants bearing gifts, wending its way through the audience. Vespers had grown into quite the spectacle, loved by all. This all happened on the stage in the Wheeler Gym that now houses the Fitness Center. It had grown in such popularity that in its final years we had to do two, and one year three, performances to accommodate the crowd. But mostly because of space restraints in the “Old Gym,” Grades 1-3 sang and left, Grade 4 only came to the final rehearsal, Middle School only participated in singing a couple of songs. It was a performance.
The world—and Lincoln—had changed and grown, and the population of Lincoln included an increasing number of students who were outside the confines of traditional Christian religious practice. The decidedly Christian bent of Vespers became an increasingly uncomfortable glove. A committee was formed to think about what we could do to change that. We discussed lots of ideas; many people advocated changing the event to a more inclusive one. A concern was that it would grow bigger and bigger if we followed that course. Lincoln was also at that time focusing more actively on its Quaker principles under the leadership of Joan Countryman, herself a Quaker, so the natural suggestion was to transform the event into something more “Quakerly”—a kind of silent meeting. But Lincoln also did not want to abandon completely the incredibly deep and wonderful community spirit that Vespers engendered. And we didn’t want just to sit in silence. Hence… Lumina.
A silent meeting, focusing on peace, humanity and stewardship of the Earth with explanations of Lincoln’s Quaker values, that keeps beautiful and touching aspects alumnae remember … a candlelight procession by the seniors, “dress” uniform, handbells and LOTS of music. It has grown and changed since its inception in December 1994—songs have come and gone, and those highly-anticipated 45 minutes have become a community event rather than a performance. Lumina is as vital a part of Lincoln life now as Vespers has been for alumnae. To quote Hallmark, "Traditions are not for keeping, they're for keeping us together." If you haven’t witnessed this inspiring event, please come and join us, you will find the date on the All-School Calendar.
To further the spirit of community, we’re including a download of the lyrics of all the Lumina songs as well as informal recordings to sing along with. You can also find a description of the event for optional reading.