DOBSON — County residents — young, old and in-between — turned out to form a standing-room-only crowd in the century-old 1914 Rockford Methodist Church Thursday night for the first of two nights of a holiday favorite.
This year’s 22nd annual Candlelight Christmas in Rockford, sponsored by the Rockford Preservation Society, was another huge success, according to Preservation Society President Hannah Holyfield.
Looking over the crowd assembled a half hour prior to the 7:30 p.m. start, Holyfield was nearly at a loss for words.
“This is great,” she said quietly. “This is really great.”
And the crowd got what it came for: A moment’s pause from the hustle and bustle of another holiday season.
And then there was the music.
Once again this year, Rockford native Dr. Gena Poovey returned to her home from her post as chairwoman of South Carolina’s Limestone College music department to enthrall the crowd with her voice.
Addressing the crowd, Poovey said this year, as always, the event had a theme.
“For me, this year’s theme is the theme of cold and winter,” she said. “It’s purifying weather, something about the cold is purifying. And returning home to Rockford at this time of year, our gathering here does just that for me.”
From classical selections like “Come Unto Him” from Handel’s “Messiah” to the operatic “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime,” to the traditional “White Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland,” the event had something for everyone.
“This year we have a real good variety,” Holyfield said. “We have folk, gospel, bluegrass and classical, but it all fits together beautifully for the start of the Christmas season.”
And people were moved.
During the performance, several members of the audience could at times be seen wiping tears or swaying quietly to the music.
But they didn’t just listen.
As members of Gene Anderson and Ararat Friends Singers broke into a three-guitar rendition of “Winter Wonderland,” the audience began singing and the band immediately switched to harmony as the church was filled with hundreds of voices.
Holyfield said the Candlelight Christmas service was started in 1991 and is in its 22nd year. Dr. Gena Poovey along with Evelyn Holyfield are credited with bringing back the service.
“This program has grown over the years,” said Holyfield. “In 2000, it was expanded into two nights as audiences of more than 200 persons taxed available space in the 150 capacity church.”
The event concluded with a five-song set by the Surry Central High School Chorus under the direction of Teresa Beshears with accompanists Andy and Damon Atkins.
First-time attendee and Chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners Eddie Harris said he came out after hearing rave reviews of the event.
“I’ve heard so much about this program, and I appreciate the significance of what people are trying to preserve here in Rockford,” he said. “I just wanted to come out and enjoy this great program.”
And once again, the hardwood floors of Rockford Methodist Church, scratched by a century of foot traffic, vibrated with the spirit of the season.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.