70th Annual Festival of Carols by Anna Tse 2

The 70th Annual Festival of Carols is a gathering of Choirs from communities around Malden, MA. It presents Christmas Carols to the public for FREE. This is a tradition that opens Christmas celebration since 1943 up to the present. First Baptist Church, Malden, MA. has been the venue of the event since 1970. Director of music and Conductor is Mr. Richard Freeman and Accompanist playing the majestic E.M. Skinner Organ is Ms. Rosalind Mohnsen.

Program Director Mr. Richard Freeman and Organist Ms. Rosalind Mohnsen

70th Annual Festival of Carols by Anna Tse 1
The 70th Annual Festival Of Carols in First Baptist Church, Malden MA. December 8, 2013

Malden Observer News – Singers from throughout the city are invited to converge at the First Baptist Church of Malden on Dec. 8, for the 70th Annual Festival of Carols. Program Director Richard Freeman said the festival, which will feature an international mix of carols new and old, is expected to draw roughly 60 choral singers from across the city. He added the door is open for the general public to become involved, too. “If anyone is interested in singing, all are welcome,” he said. “You don’t have to be a choir member to sing in this, you just have to be a lover of singing.” Freeman said this year’s show will include music from Ukraine, France, Great Britain, Germany and the United States. He anticipated everything from Handel to contemporary compositions. Immaculate Conception Music Director Rosalind Mohnsen will provide accompaniment for much of the program on the church’s 1915 E.M. Skinner organ, which uses nearly 3,000 pipes to create a unique sound within the venue. “It has a wonderful individual sound and a great sound with the ensemble,” she said. “It’s real quality stuff.”

Freeman said the festival started as a way to bring people together during World War II. He said it was initially sponsored by the Malden Clergy Association, and later by the Malden Council of Churches, until that body dissolved in 1970. The festival became a fixture at First Baptist when that church became the lead sponsor in 1970. Freeman was a singer in the choir back then, and said he was asked to direct the program by then-minister of music Robert Love. Freeman has been directing the program ever since. He said the program has grown smaller over the years — down from a peak of about 200 singers in the ‘70s, but he added it’s an important tradition to many Malden residents. “It’s a very lifting experience,” he said. “I had one couple tell me last year their Christmas really begins with the Carol Festival.” Among the churches participating is the Korean Global Arc Baptist Church and the Spanish speaking Casa de Fe Alabanza. The program will also feature the children’s choir from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Malden.

The event also draws a special chorus, comprised of Malden High School students and alumni, which is known as the Robert K. Love alumni chorus. Having sung in the chorus for years before taking over the organ duties when Love passed away in 2002, Mohnsen said it’s something many singers look forward to all year. “It’s a wonderful coming together of singers and choirs from throughout the city of Malden and beyond,” she said. “It’s a little bit like a reunion, because people who have maybe moved away often come back.” Rehearsal for the festival starts at 3 p.m. on Dec. 8. Singers are asked to bring robes from their church, if possible. Freeman said the church has a limited supply of robes to lend for the occasion as well. The 90-minute program starts at 5 p.m. It is free of charge, but the church accepts donations from the audience. Special interview report by Nathan Lamb.