Marist singers help bring Christmas spirit

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Each and every pew is filled at Redeemed Christian Fellowship on Saturday afternoon. Individuals patiently wait in a dimly lit room for the Ecumenical Service of Lessons and Carols. People are dressed in their winter coats, flipping through the pages of the program, minutes before the start time. Soon, an echoing chant fills the room. The service is about to begin.

The Ecumenical Service of Lesson and Carols features Marist singers, Chamber String Ensemble, Handbell Choir, and Campus Ministry. It is a 25-yearlong tradition that started out small then blossomed into a large event. It began as a tiny ceremony in the college’s chapel with just a few of the singers. Then, the event grew sizable enough that it had to be moved to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church located on Mill Street.

But eventually, the service needed an even bigger space to accommodate the large turnout every year. Moving the event to Redeemed Christian fellowship on Cannon Street was the answer. The space can hold a crowd up to 800 people. Inside there are several rows of brown, wooden pews, golden arches above the altar, and stained glass windows throughout the church.

The service commenced with a prelude, “The Oxen,” sung by the freshman women’s choir. The attention was on the choir who stood in the front of the room dressed in long, black gowns. The handbell choir then started to chime in. The bells were rung in a way that instantly set the tone to the Christmas spirit.

“It kicks off the Christmas season and it’s an opportunity to celebrate the beginning of Advent which is presented in the early readings,” said Campus Ministry Director Brother Frank Kelly. “As the service goes through– it progresses to the birth of Jesus. So the event is just a really nice bridge from Advent to Christmas.”

During the ceremony, the crowd listened intently to carols such as “O Come, O Come, Emanuel,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Silent Night.” Sarah Williams, the director of choral activities conducted the choir, wearing an adorned, grey evening gown. She moved her hands rapidly while mouthing the lyrics, as the singers astutely followed her gestures.

“I’m beyond proud. Students that harness their love of music and give it as a gift –are the next generation of greatness,” said Williams.

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Choral Director, Sarah Williams looks onto the crowd just minutes before the service starts

Later in the service, the crowd participated in an “illumination.” Everyone held a candle that was distributed at the door. Usher men lit the candle of the person sitting on each end of the pew. Then, that person turned over to light the candle of the individual sitting next to them. It was a domino effect.

The lights were turned down low. Soon, the whole church transformed into a sea of lights with candles shining in the air. The orchestra played an instrumental, peaceful tune to set the mood.

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The “Illumination”

Brother Frank Kelly concluded the service with a closing prayer. The ending hymn was “Hallelujah.” The audience was invited to come up to the altar to join in on the singing. About 20 members of the crowd took the opportunity.

“It’s a really good event for everyone who comes to church and they get to experience all the songs we sing and get to sing along if they know the songs too,” said Marist singer, Brittany O’Reilly.  “We always do the traditional lessons and carols–it’s a packet of all these different songs that everybody knows. So it’s really exciting.”

Members of the crowd left, smiling. They chatted about the service that helped them get into the spirit of the holiday season.

“The service was beautiful and I enjoyed hearing the talented singers and musicians in this room. It really put in perspective for me, the true meaning of Christmas,” said parishioner Thomas Gordon.

 

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Veteran reporter joins Sports Center

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Jane McManus, photo courtesy of Marist College

Westchester native, Jane McManus will serve as the Director of the Center for Sports Communication starting December 1st. The powerhouse addition to the acclaimed program has two decades of experience covering New York Sports and working for publications such as The New York Times, USA Today, and ESPN.

Marist released a statement: “McManus has had an illustrious career covering 18 U.S. Opens, five Super Bowls, two NCAA Final Fours, and the inaugural season of the of the New York Liberty WNBA team.”

Familiar to collegiate education, McManus was also a professor at her alma mater, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.   The faculty at Marist looks forward to the new hire, who will bring a new standpoint for the program with her wealth of industry knowledge.

“Hiring Jane McManus is a real coup for Marist. She injects instant credibility and experience into our Sports Communication Center and program with the good name she built in decades in the industry, most recently with ESPN where she was often on TV and radio. She’ll really propel us forward, and that’s hugely exciting,” said Leander Schaerlaeckens, professor and assistant director for the Center of Sports Communication.

In a previous article, Dean of Communications and the Arts, Dr. Lyn Lepre, mentioned the advantages that McManus will add to the program. “She will bring a wealth of experience to this position from her many years as an active journalist and sports media expert,” Lepre said.

McManus may not just be influencing the communication department; her impact may stretch to other regions of Marist College. The former ESPN writer and reporter has a chance to rally with Red Fox nation.

“I hope that with her background in ESPN, she’ll not only embrace but really roll up her sleeves and work real closely with the partnership that we have in athletics with the Center for Sports Communication–in terms of the production with ESPN 3 games through the athletic program,” said Tim Murray, director of athletics.

IMG_0357 Director of Athletics, Tim Murray

As of one year ago, all Marist basketball home games are streamed live on ESPN 3, the company’s online streaming service.

McManus is excited about her new role at the college, in a time when the sports industry is shifting. “The business of sports media is at a crossroads, but the need for prepared professionals is greater than ever. I want to be part of a center committed to anticipating the needs of emerging employers even as it steeps students in the history that will create engaged and critical thinkers,” said McManus in a statement for Marist.

As far as students–one sports communication senior is thrilled that McManus will be joining a program where females are among the minority. “It’s really awesome that we have a female director in a program that’s about 80% male based. It shows myself as well as the other girls in the program that even though we’re outnumbered, we still have something to offer and can really make a name for ourselves in the sports industry,” Kerry Flynn said.

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Graveyard Tour returns at St. James’ Church

It was 8 p.m. on a Friday evening and the weather was chilly at 40 degrees. The 200-year old graveyard at St. James’ filled up with an eager crowd holding lanterns. People of all ages attended, dressed in their winter gear. The tour was about to begin.

St. James’ Church in Hyde Park kicked off their 9th season with their annual Historic Graveyard Tour. Originally a run up for the bi-centennial church celebration in 2011, the tour has remained a popular event for many years. In fact, 200 people turned out for the first tour that the crowd had to be split into three groups. “My family and I look forward to the tour every year. I’m always amazed by the production. It’s definitely one of the biggest highlights for the church,” said parishioner Stephanie Carson.

The tour consisted of approximately eight actors stationed in different parts of the cemetery. Each of the actors played characters who were buried at St. James’ Church. Around half of the actors are parishioners, and half are not. Every year has non-coincidentally turned into a different theme for the tour. One year the theme was slavery, while another year the tour concentrated on disabilities. This year, the focus was on those who were connected to the First World War. The script is written by a committee of parish volunteers who plan months in advance for the momentous parish event.

The crowd followed the dark path of the graveyard, led by a host for the hour. Each actor described their character’s background and major roles they took on in life. Dressed in costume of the era, characters ranged from Red Cross personnel, soldiers, lieutenants and even chefs to President Roosevelt.

The host for the evening, Russell Urban-Mead led the crowd in an animated voice and took the group to each stationed actor. A family affair–Urban Mead’s wife, Wendy was the director of the tour this year. Smiling, he sat in a church pew before the start of the 8:00 p.m. tour, enthusiastic for the evening. “It’s an exciting time for our parish where everyone comes together to work on the tour. There is a lot of history that many people do not even know about, just in front of our eyes in the 200-year old cemetery,” Urban-Mead admits.

The Rev. Chuck Kramer has been at St. James’ Church for 21 years. He made his debut appearance as an actor in this year’s tour. Kramer played Ogden Livingston Mills, U.S Secretary of the Treasury during Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Kramer was the first actor for the evening, and passionately depicted the spirit of Mills with his gestures and keen storytelling.

Recounting the intention of the tour, Kramer sat in his office, filled with books, sacred embellishments and bright colors. “There are three goals of the tour. One is to entertain. One is to inform and one is to inspire,” Kramer said.

Partakers of the St. James’ Historic Graveyard Tour can expect to be educated on major roles individuals played during World War I. It is a night to learn about the lives of the souls who rest in the church’s cemetery.

Kramer is proud of the impact the tour has left on people for the past eight years as well as the light it sheds on history. “The tour makes people come alive in a way that tugs at   the heart and has people thinking ‘wow.’ It engages both the funny bone and the heart,” Kramer said.

The tour runs for three weeks in October on Friday and Saturday night’s starting at 7:00, 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and proceeds go to the on-going ministry and outreach of the church.

(from left to right) Pete Bedrossian, playing the role of (William) Gerald Morgan.

Andrew William Gordineer, 21, playing the role of William T. White.

Reverend Chuck Kramer in his parish office at St. James’ Church.

 

 

Returning from Freshman Florence Experience creates a tough transition

Strolling the cobblestone streets, passing by Renaissance works of art, eating some of the finest cuisines, and enjoying the bustling city’s nightlife are a few privileges that students abroad enjoy in Florence. This lifestyle becomes a reality for freshmen choosing to spend their entire first year abroad. In nine months, these 18-year-old students have become Florentines. They have spent two semesters chatting up the locals, becoming café regulars, traveling Europe–all while forming close relationships with peers. But what happens when this magical year abroad ends? It is time to return back to America and pick up as a sophomore at Marist in Poughkeepsie.

Instead of eating in a quaint trattoria with the freshest food, students are now eating in the dining hall. The days of walking to class with street musicians serenading them are over. Now, the group is walking to class in a sea full of strangers.

Marist College implemented the Freshman Florence Experience over 10 years ago as a way to grant first-year students a unique cultural experience while pursuing foundational coursework. The program has been running for over 10 years, remaining a popular path to take.

An average of 40 students per year, partake in the program. “With 40 students, allows a strong relationship with faculty, and the student cohort members themselves,” said Alex Tom, associate director of international admissions.

Joseph Campisi, the assistant professor of philosophy in Poughkeepsie has taught in Florence for two semesters. He sits in his Fontaine office, starkly contrasting to his space in the historic, Renaissance city. Campisi enjoyed the tight-knit group that was formed between the “FFE’s.” “You have a fewer number of students, and so they all get to know one other. It creates a neat classroom experience since everyone is all friends with each other,” said Campisi. This is a blatant contrast to classes in Poughkeepsie, where a student often does not know anyone in the room.

Former FFE Aaron Todd explains one challenge of breaking away from the FFE group and trying to meet new classmates. “We were going from a super friendly, familiar environment–then returning back as a sophomore, the rest of the students already established their friends and weren’t as open to meeting people,” Todd noted.

Florence is a unique place. Therefore, there needs to be a differentiation between the year abroad and life at the New York campus. “Italy is not going to be Poughkeepsie and the second you start thinking it is, you are going to absolutely hate it here,” confessed Jackie Gruber, former FFE. It is important to remember that the two cities are clearly, not the same. Alex Tom (aforementioned) is an alumnus who participated in FFE. “When you come back from a year overseas, initially you think ‘wow Poughkeepsie is not Florence’ but that is obvious. There are more opportunities in the New York area that you’re not going to get in Italy,” Tom reassured.

Another difficult adjustment is the lack of nightlife for freshmen. FFE’s are legal to drink in Florence. But when they come back to New York, all of that changes. “I always worried about the social aspect for students returning back. They were of legal age to go to bars and clubs in Florence. When they get back they’re going from 60 miles per hour to 3 miles per hour,” Campisi said.

While the transition from abroad is quite the adjustment­–it is possible. Marist faculty try their best to make FFE’s feel comfortable. Three days prior to the semester beginning, orientation is held. “We do a lot to try to help the sophomores acclimate to campus here. We talk about the different resources available and each student is paired up with a mentor/former FFE,” said Jean Hinkley, coordinator of the Freshman Florence Experience.

“We would do things to acclimate, like have picnics by the Hudson River with the FFE’s,” Gruber said. It is a stark contrast to eating pizza on the Ponte Vecchio, overlooking the Arno River. However, creating some kind of familiarity helps FFE’s transition and resume their college careers back in the United States.

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