“Our world has changed much and yet very little since the angels sang over Bethlehem,” 1961

I’ve mentioned the Rice television show a couple of times before (here and here) and recently I ran across part of the script for the Christmas program in 1961. The only pieces in the folder were the introduction and the conclusion–note that they were to have been used with a teleprompter. I can’t be certain who read these words but it was most likely English professor Thad Marsh, who seems to have been the show’s host during most of the early years. For good or for ill it’s impossible to imagine this happening today:


The ending is equally interesting. I think there’s a file somewhere on that Iranian archaeological excavation somewhere in the Woodson but I’ll have to think on that a bit:

Bonus: The Rice Chorale had a very busy week. After the taping  the television show on Tuesday they performed at the annual Christmas in the Chapel program on Thursday. (I know nothing about the Chorale director, Harmon Ferguson, by the way. If you do, let me know.)


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6 Responses to “Our world has changed much and yet very little since the angels sang over Bethlehem,” 1961

  1. Galloway H Hudson, Wiess '60 says:

    Thanks, Melissa. Very interesting. Exhausted by five years at Rice in the Bad Old Days, I received my BSME in 1961 and thus missed these events. What was the life span of the Rice television program? I don’t recall knowing about it during 1960/1961.

  2. almadenmike says:

    According to his 2008 obituary (https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/houstonchronicle/name/harmon-ferguson-obituary?id=25005707), Harmon Ferguson “graduated from San Jacinto High School, and Baylor University. He served his country in the US Air Force in WWII. He had a beautiful tenor voice and was a gifted choirmaster. He was Sr. Vice President of Great Southern Bank. He became an Eagle Scout in 1942 and was an adult Scouter active for 47 years. He loved his family, had a kind heart for animals, and was a great leader.”

    A comment by Ferguson’s daughter to another person’s 2006 obituary (https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/houstonchronicle/name/louise-brown-obituary?id=26750115) said that Harmon had been choirmaster at the First Christian Church (at Rice & Sunset).

    An article on page 1 of the October 21, 1960, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/66277/thr19601021.pdf?sequence=1) announced “the first meeting of a new informal association of Rice music-lovers … to be known as the Rice University Chorale. (It) is open to both students and faculty, participants as well as listeners.”

    It was to be conducted by Professor Arthur E. Hall of the Shepherd School of Music.

    A year later, an article on page 4 of the Sept. 15, 1961 Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/66301/thr19610915.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y) has the first Rice-related mention of Harmon Ferguson. It reported that “The first meeting of the Rice University Choir was held Wednesday night with approximately 50 Riceites present for this organizational meeting and preliminary tryouts. … The talented and enthusiastic director of the new choir is Mr. Harmon Ferguson. Although an investment broker by profession, Mr. Ferguson has studied music at Baylor and had much experience with choral groups.

    “He and his family have recently returned to Houston from New Orleans, where he was director and tenor soloist with the Bethany Methodist Choir.

    “Since his Rice assignment is his only commitment here, he is naturally enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of the choir.

    “According to Mr. Ferguson and Dr. Niels Nielsen, chairman of the Faculty Committee on Religion, the possibilities of the choir are almost unlimited. The important factors are student interest and student support.”

    This 1961 article makes no mention of the “Chorale.”

    But two months later, an article on page 10 of the Nov. 11, 1961, Thresher says the Rice Chorale will sing at two events in the chapel (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/66309/thr19611110.pdf?sequence=1), and of course the Rice Chorale sang at the Christmas events described in Melissa’s post above.

    Perhaps the “Rice University Choir” was a typo … or just a short-term name for the “Rice Chorale”?

  3. Barbara Bane says:

    I believe the Iranian archeology may have been the work conducted by Frank Hole, still teaching undergraduate archeology classes at Rice in 1973 when I started as a budding archeologist

    • almadenmike says:

      You’re correct, Barbara.

      Here’s what the Rice’s Report of the President for 1961-62 said about Dr. Hole joining the Rice faculty:

      “New faculty members in many undergraduate programs in
      the Humanities are adding further strength to a distinguished
      staff which provides the low student-to-faculty ratio essential
      to a superior educational program. New fields are represented
      by the appointment of Dr. Frank Hole, the archaeologist who
      arrived mid-year after the completion of the activities in Iran
      of the Rice University-Oriental Institute Expedition … ”

      The Oriental Institute was founded in 1919 at the University of Chicago, where Dr. Hole earned his Masters (1958) and PhD (1961) degrees. In 1980, he was named chair of Yale’s Department of Anthropology at Yale, where he remains, in 2005 having become the Emeritus C.J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology.

      In 1961 and 1963, Dr. Hole and a University of Chicago colleague (Kent Flannery) excavated at Ali Kosh — a small tell (an ancient mound in the Middle East composed of remains of successive settlements) on the semi-arid Deh Luran plain of Southwestern Iran — for evidence for early agriculture and animal husbandry.

      It was related to a project in Iraq and nearby Iran initiated by University of Chicago researchers in 1948.

      This past May (2021), Dr. Hole and one of his former Rice graduate students (Dr. Sekandar Amanolahi-Baharvand; PhD, 1974) published a memoir of their 1973 trip to join the spring migration of a tribe of nomads in Luristan, Iran (“Tribal Pastoralists in Transition: The Baharvand of Luristan, Iran”), including what has happened since 1973 to the people they’d met there, as told by those who are still alive and their children.

  4. William Cooke '75 says:

    I see the name Niels C. Nielsen Jr. printed in pencil. Is he still with us in this terrestrial world? For good or ill, his intro religion courses in the early 1970’s did more to expand my mind than any of the common hallucinogenic substances of the time. I’ll have good thoughts of him as I ponder the angels message this Christmas.

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