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St. Vincent Basilica will shine for Greensburg Garden Center’s holiday tour

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, December 29, 2016 8:55 p.m
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Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
A statue of Jesus and a Christmas tree are framed in a wreath in St. Vincent Basilica in Latrobe on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Greensburg Garden Center’s holiday church tour will be held Jan. 7 at the basilica.
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Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Garden Center's holiday church tour and musical celebration on Jan. 7 will feature Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity, shown decorated for Christmas in this 2016 photo.
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Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
Golden light hits a statue of Jesus in St. Vincent Basilica, which is decorated for Christmas, in Latrobe on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Greensburg Garden Center’s holiday church tour will be held Jan. 7 at the basilica.
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Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
Guests will view Christmas decorations and a nativity scene during Greensburg Garden Center's Jan. 7 tour of Saint Vincent Basilica in Unity.
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Patrick Connolly | Tribune-Review
A nativity scene in St. Vincent Basilica in Latrobe on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Greensburg Garden Center’s holiday church tour will be held Jan. 7 at the basilica.

Lavish holiday decorations, a “Star of Bethlehem” planetarium show and Christmas music by the Westmoreland County Community College Concert Choir will make the Greensburg Garden Center’s holiday tour of St. Vincent Basilica an event to remember.

“The basilica will be decorated to the nines,” says tour co-chairwoman Donna Lee. “The choir sounds fabulous. The acoustics in the basilica are fabulous.”

The church is known for its 6.5 seconds of reverberation, which creates a full, rich sound.

The 65-member WCCC Concert Choir is made up of students and community members and is led by Dr. Roderick Booker, director of music at WCCC. Its performance begins at 1:30 p.m. and will take listeners beyond the usual Christmas carols. Many of the songs are seldom heard, and those that are familiar will be sung in unique ways.

The program includes “Christmas Fanfare,” “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” “Ain’t-a That Good News,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” for two pianos and choir, and a special arrangement of “We Three Kings” created especially for this choir.

“This year’s theme is ‘Herald in the Holidays,’ ” Booker says. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s a beautiful room. It should sound wonderful in that room.”

Organ music will greet tourgoers as they enter the church for the concert. St. Vincent’s custom-made organ was installed two years ago and has more than 3,000 pipes, the largest of which is 18 feet long.

The church will be decorated with poinsettias, greenery and other Christmas finery. A 40-foot Christmas tree and a huge Nativity scene with a desert and waterfall will be on display. The Nativity scene is so large that it fills an entire transept of the church.

“The church is just so beautiful at Christmas time,” says the Rev. Fred Byrne, of St. Vincent. “It’s so special.”

After the choir concert, Byrne will give a talk about the history and architecture of the basilica.

Two showings of the “Star of Bethlehem” will be presented in the planetarium of the Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion on the St. Vincent campus. The show offers three possible astronomical explanations for the biblical star of Bethlehem based on what was visible in the sky during the time of Christ’s birth. The program also includes Christmas music and an overview of the seasonal night sky. When making reservations, ticketholders can choose to see the program either before or after the concert and talk.

Proceeds from the tour benefit the Greensburg Garden Center scholarship fund.

“People can just sit and relax and have a really nice, entertaining afternoon,” Lee says. “It’s just gorgeous there.”

Cynthia Helzel is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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