Traditional ‘Lessons and Carols’ Service To Be Streamed on Christmas Eve


By Les Gura

For much of this year of the pandemic, singer, guitarist and songwriter Martha Bassett has learned to adapt.

For example, her monthly Martha Bassett Show at the historic Reeves Theater in Elkin has continued, but the size of the performance and production team were reduced and, rather than perform before an audience, the show was switched to live streaming. She says her band members and crew have become seasoned streaming performers.

So when Chris Gambill, a director in Wake Forest Baptist’s Division of FaithHealth, came calling to see if Bassett and her team still wanted to perform the annual Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols concert at Davis Memorial Chapel, they were more than willing and more than able.

“I was thrilled because, honestly, this is the most meaningful Christmas service of the year,” Bassett says. “With the setting in the hospital, we’re there for the community, we’re there for families in the hospital who really don’t want to be there. But it feels like we’re able to provide something really helpful to people who need it.”

Bassett first joined the Christmas Eve show about 25 years ago, it was through her connection to the founder of the performance, Dr. Annette Pashayan, an anesthesiologist who was a singer with many church choirs and the Greensboro-based Bel Canto Company, an a capella performance group. Bassett, then a member of Bel Canto, says she loved being part of the Lessons and Carols concept at the time, a quintet performance, crediting the late Pashayan for establishing what has become a beloved holiday tradition.

Years later, Wake Forest Baptist asked Bassett to put together a performance group, and she has led it ever since. The past two years have consisted of Bassett singing and playing acoustic guitar along with bassist Pat Lawrence, cellist Fiona Burdette and Russell Kelly on electric guitar.

To convert to a streaming concert was not too difficult, Bassett says, except for one thing on the Sunday they recorded. What is normally about a 60-minute performance went on for hours.

“The video process took a lot longer that what we would normally do. Once you do video and you’re watching it on a screen, there’s a totally different standard,” she says. Live shows, she notes, are more forgiving because there is no correcting of flaws.

In the end, though, the show went on, thanks to the work of videographer Ben Singer and Brian Doub on sound. Lawrence is producing the show and will do final preparations.

Hope in the midst of a difficult year

Gambill, dean of Davis Memorial Chapel and director of the Center for Congregational Health, says from the outset, nearly everyone involved with the annual concert wanted it to happen, and he is thrilled that Bassett was so eager offer it in this way.

“I think it was probably needed more than ever as a sign of hope in the midst of a very difficult year,” Gambill says. “We believe this is going to open up even more opportunities to extend the ministry of Davis Memorial Chapel beyond the confines of our space on Hawthorne Avenue.”

In fact, this year’s Lessons and Carols should reach far more people than usually fit inside the quaint, but compact Davis Chapel. The performance will be streamed to the public and also will be aired to patients staying in Wake Forest Baptist rooms through the medical center’s Get Well Network.

To learn about other holiday events, go HERE