Members of the Reno Choral Society began rehearsing the first selection in the "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” Monday night in the sanctuary of Emanuel Lutheran Church.

The performance is an Advent tradition in Hutchinson. Each year the arrangement of music changes, but the opening hymn remains the same. A young person is selected to sweetly sing a Capella “Once in royal David's city, stood a lowly cattle shed. Here a mother laid her baby in a manger for His bed.”

Returning for his second year as the guest conductor is Riley King, the choral director at HMS 7 and 8. One of his eighth-grade students Melaina Goss, 14, will be singing the opening solo, during the performance at 7 p.m., Sunday at Emanuel Lutheran Church, 140 E. 30th Ave.

While the service has a 35-year history in Hutchinson, the first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was held 99-years-ago at King's College, in Cambridge, England.

World War I had just ended a month earlier and the Dean of King’s College, who had served as a chaplain in the army, believed the church needed more creative ways to worship. So on Christmas Eve, 1918, the first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was born, opening with a young chorister singing “Once In Royal David’s City.”

“That is the traditional beginning, all based on King’s College they always start with it,” Riley King said.

This will be the third year the service will be at Emanuel Lutheran Church, 140 E. 30th Ave.

“I love the service, “ said the Rev. Tim Carey, pastor of Emanuel. “It's a beautiful service.”

Carey has participated for about 15 years serving as a reader of a lesson.

Along with the carols and lesson, there will hymn singing by the entire congregation, giving the choir a break, said Ellen Lane, long-time choral society member.

“There are not a lot of places you can sit and sing Christmas carols,” Lane said.

King, who is 24, grew up in Lawrence, and graduated from Bethel College, North Newton.

It wasn’t until Ellen Lane, sent him an invitation to be the guest conductor that King heard of Nine Lessons. He quickly messaged his mentors for help. One person linked him to the King’s College website where he was able to familiarize himself with the music. It was there he found programs for every performance since 1918.

While they commission a new piece each year at the King's College, they will repeat some songs from previous years. However, the lessons are always the same.

The choir features 54 voices blending together - senior citizens and high school students, from all walks of life.

In choosing the music, King prefers simpler tunes, but he also looks for music which pushes the singers both as musicians and in their faith.

For the first lesson, the song “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree,” is a song that has the choir reflecting on their faith.

King wants the choral group to be more than a group that sings together.

 “I think it's important that the choir isn't just people who get together and sing,” King said. “I think it’s important to build a community and to share thoughts and ideas about the music, about life about whatever it means.”

He said, there is a reason this isn’t just nine lessons.

 “You could go there and listen to all the Bible stories, it would still be a religious experience, it would still be reflecting on the birth of Jesus Christ, but I think adding carols changes the experience in a drastic way. Music is this inherent thing to people. When you take a text and apply it to music it changes the meaning of that text.

“It's really important to answer why we added music and why we added choral music They hear a reading from the Bible and a piece that reflects on it, and that adds another layer for them to think about,” King said.

King said he finds great joy in being the guest conductor.

 “This is a co-creation,” King said.

He just happens to be leading the vision.