Music and Ministry at the Alice P. Taylor Candlelight Service

For 78 years, Henderson residents have been participating in the Alice P. Taylor Candlelight Service. The service, hosted by the First United Methodist Church, takes place December 6. Organ prelude by Matthew Vanhover, Director of Music Ministries at First Methodist, begins at 3:30pm and the service starts at 4pm.

The service will include area vocalists singing traditional Christmas music. In addition, the Henderson County High School Chamber Ensemble will perform several selections – among which are selected movements from Vivaldi’s Gloria. The congregation will be invited to sing several favorite Christmas carols as well.

The following is a brief history about the event:

Mrs. Alice P. Taylor was responsible for the first Candlelight Carol Service in 1931. In 1951, the name was changed, by Mrs. Becky Lackey, to the Alice P. Taylor Candlelight Service in honor of the originator of the Henderson Music Club. This was to become an annual music service held early in December as a gift from the Music Club to the town of Henderson celebrating the Christmas season. From 1951-1979, Mrs. Lackey spent many hours planning this very special event in which all the choirs participated, including the high school choirs, under the direction of Tommy Tate and Virgil Diem. Mrs. Lackey requested that all churches with bells have them ringing and the choirs congregate an hour before the service to rehearse. Louise Benton played the harp while the audience assembled. For five years, until her death in 1956, Alice P. Taylor was honored with her own special seat, adorned with a big red bow and a corsage from the Music Club.

In the early 1990’s, when the Henderson Music Club disbanded, a group of former members decided to continue the service. This group included Grace Swingle, Betty Norment, Dianne Wham, Louise Benton, Dorothy Norris, and Bernice Benham. The program, which had moved from church to church in years prior, was hosted by First United Methodist Church for the most of the next 26 years. Beginning with a half-hour organ prelude, each APT Service included the high school choir, under the direction of conductors including Bob Ellis, Joyce Delling, Susan Shirel, and Felicia Belcher, as well as gifted local soloists. Dianne Wham handled the numerous details of the program alone for about 15 years until recently, when a small committee was formed to assist with the program.

First Methodist Church is located at 338 Third Street in Henderson, KY. For more information contact Matthew Vanover at or (270) 827-9831.