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FAMILY'S CHRISTMAS DISPLAY BRINGS LIGHT TO HOLIDAYS
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FAMILY'S CHRISTMAS DISPLAY BRINGS LIGHT TO HOLIDAYS

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Phillip Harrelson was talking about more than the airiness of this column when he told me, ``Everybody needs something light everyday!'

Phillip and his family bring light to a lot of people every Christmas season with their own light display on Burney Road, between Seagrove and Troy. His parents started the tradition in the early 1980s and are now joined by Phillip's family, his sister, a first cousin and other neighbors. Each year, the Harrelsons add to the display, so the work usually begins right after Halloween.Two hundred to three hundred cars ride by what is known as the Burney Road Lights each night. ``It gets pretty hectic on the weekends,' Harrelson said.

As long as we ``light-seekers' park safely off the road, the Harrelsons don't even mind our walking through their front yard displays. Phillip did warn me, ``Be careful. There are a few drop cords out there.'

A few drop cords? Words fail me in my attempt to describe this collection of lights. The Harrelsons give a whole new meaning to ``exterior illumination!'

When asked about his electric bills, Harrelson laughed and said, ``Oh, that's irrelevant.

``Most people this day and time don't even know what they're celebrating at Christmas. We hope this is a reminder.'

Members of the nearby New Hope Methodist Church, the Harrelson family like to think their gift of light is one that will be remembered. As Phillip said: ``All we can do in life is help someone out.'

To visit the lights, take the N.C. 49 exit off U.S. 220 and follow New Hope Church Road toward Troy for 2.5 miles. Turn left on Burney Road and follow the traffic! Santa Claus is scheduled to make a stop on Christmas Eve.

The Randolph Chorale presented its 37th concert last Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church in Asheboro. The spirited concert included selections from Randall Thompson's ``The Peaceable Kingdom' and carols and lullabies from ``Christmas in the Southwest' by Conrad Susa.

Members of the Chorale are: Delores Crutchfield, Frances Davis, Greg Evans, Danny Garner, John Grey, Norman Grey, Jennifer Harrell, Eddie Harrington, Paul Harris, Susan Jarrett, Harry Killian, Bev Lawrence, Jennifer Lucas, Vinny McTighe, Carrie Meier, Ben Needham, Tom Osteen, Elizabeth Pugh, Angie Queen, Laurie Rich, Eric Richardson, Anne Shirk, William Smith, Barbara Strider, Jeanne Swaney and Michael Trogdon.

Guest musicians included: First Presbyterian's Handbell Choir, Bells! Angels!; guitarist Michael Monroe; harpist Helen Rifas; percussionist Mike Austin; and organist Gwen Hall.

The Randolph Chorale is a program of the Randolph Arts Guild and receives support from the Grassroots Art Program of the N.C. Arts Council, Dr. Charles West, and the Asheboro Rotary Club. Rick Morgan organized the group 18 years ago, and he continues as conductor.

Those are the facts, and for those who missed the beautiful music, here are a few surprises of last Sunday's concert:

Who knew a bell choir and an organ could play Pachelbel's ``Canon' at the same time 26 voices sang ``The First Noel?'

David L. Shove's setting of ``In the Bleak Midwinter' was eerily captivating and emphasized the final lyrics, ``Give my heart.'

Delores wasn't sitting at the piano. After accompanying the group as its pianist since its inception, Delores Crutchfield finally was able to sing an entire concert. When she completed the quartet of Bev Lawrence, Harry Killian and John Grey on ``What Shall We Give?' from the Susa selections, there was no doubt that she is an invaluable member of this group, both instrumentally and vocally. She and Norman Grey are the groups' only charter members who remain with the group.

As this stellar quartet sang, Bev Lawrence's wonderful soprano voice soared. Just how high was that top note?

The percussion, guitar and harp accompanying the Southwest selections were a surprising addition, as was the text itself. Not often does our holiday music include lyrics about fish in the river glistening and ``dancing and leaping to celebrate his birthday.'

The fact that the Chorale tackled the very difficult music of Randall Thompson was no surprise. This group of fine musicians is known for ambitious undertakings.

The final surprise was the program's encore, ``Fum! Fum! Fum!.' We have learned to expect the unexpected from a Chorale performance, and all Sunday's surprises were great fun!

This past weekend, The North Randolph Historical Society held an open house at St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Stout and High Point streets in Randleman. It was a great time to visit St. Paul, which was decorated for the Christmas season and lit with candles and luminarias.

This church is one of the county's first brick buildings, built in 1879 with hand-pressed bricks fired in a nearby kiln. The church's history credits one of its members, John Feree, with commissioning local brick mason Peter Clark and carpenter Allen Redding to build the structure. The name of Feree's friend, John Banner Randleman, who like himself was in the textile business, is also associated with the church's beginnings. Feree's name is memorialized in the stained glass window.

Unfortunately, these Methodists were not experts at keeping records, so there are many mysteries surrounding the church's history. One such mystery is the suspended balconies on either side of the sanctuary, which look as though they may have been added after the church was originally built.

The trompe l'oeil painting in the sanctuary also prompts many questions. Did John Gilmer Korner (of Korner's Folly in Kernersville) have anything to do with this painting? Perhaps his painters working under the name of Rubin Rink Inc. were involved? The N.C. Archives has determined only that Europeans produced the paintings. The Society hopes to someday refurbish what must have been beautiful wall paintings of columns and draperies.

There are also questions surrounding the stained glass window behind the pulpit. Some have thought it to be a Tiffany Glass production because of its raised surfaces in the angel's gown. In 1990, the historical society replaced each of the eight side windows with what many think was there originally, opalescent glass. The society has also since added plexiglass coverings on the windows, along with an alarm system and central heating and air-conditioning.

The church was closed when Naomi Methodist Church merged with St. Paul Methodist Church in 1948. The combined churches created First Methodist Church which is now in downtown Randleman.

Today St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church houses a museum of Randolph County history. Two members of the historical society, Louise Hudson and her son-in-law, Danny Whatley, were most gracious in their tour of the church. They discussed one of the museum's most interesting displays, the horse-drawn hearse once used by Pugh Funeral Home in Asheboro. The hearse is so big it had to be disassembled and brought through one of the church's windows.

They also explained the Society's refinishing of the balcony's wooden panels. The removal of several coats of paint was followed by extensive sanding and painting. The result is a faux-graining in the wood, a sharp contrast to the panels which were left in their original condition.

Five of the original pews remain in the church. The lectern, though very old, is not original to this church. It served as a lectern at the Worthville Methodist Church.

Several visitors at Sunday's open house remembered past funerals and weddings held at St. Paul Church. Ruth Hill, Hellen Lassiter and Ruby Lassiter Culver were all brides here in the 1940s. They still have their wedding gowns and enjoyed laughing about how styles - and costs - have changed. They recalled a time when $10 would buy a dress, a hat and matching shoes, if one wasn't too ``high minded.'

The horse-drawn hearse and the steps leading to the balconies are major attractions to Louise's grandson, Austin Whatley. Austin, 6 years old, visited last Sunday as the museum closed for the season.

St. Paul will reopen in April. It is open from 2 to 4 p.m. the third Sunday of each month, and admission is free. For more information about the North Randolph Historical Society, call 495-5372.

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