Music and light show

December 19, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Michael and Heather Cermak want to help evoke some Christmas memories when people drive to their home at 1716 Bell Ave.

"When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve, the family would drive around and look at the lights," Michael said.

People can sit in their cars in front of the Cermaks' home, tune into 106.5 FM and watch as the 15,000 multicolored lights are synchronized along with their programmed holiday tunes. The display continues until Jan. 1.

The Cermaks said they always put up Christmas lights. But about three years ago, when they lived at their previous home, they watched an online video that showed a home decorated with lights that turn on and off to the beat of music.

"We thought that would be fun," Michael said.

Michael, 28, owns Cermak Technologies Inc., a computer consulting company, while Heather, 27, teaches music to kindergarten through eighth graders at Corpus Christi School in Chambersburg. They said they combined both expertises to put together the show.


When the couple moved to their new home on Bell Avenue this year, they wanted to make sure they brought with them their traditional light show.

The Cermaks start right before Thanksgiving stringing up the miles of lights. But before the lights even reach the yard or roof, Heather said every strand is tested and everything is labeled. This year they received help from her sisters during testing and from Michael's father during installation.

For her, the lights are meant to be enjoyed.

"It's just something that adds to the celebration," she said.

Most of the lights are incandescent and have been collected over the years.

"We've bought them at after-Christmas sales and Wal-Mart," Michael said.

As for how the lights seem to dance with the music, Michael said, "It's magic."

Michael said the lights are controlled by 64 computer channels, and he said there is more than half a mile of extension cords just to run everything.

The Cermaks used a computer program called Light-O-Rama that allows them to control the lights. Michael said they have a dedicated computer and dedicated circuit to run the program.

Michael said the music and lights are synchronized down to 1/20th of a second.

"Heather's a music teacher so she likes it to be on the beat," he said.

Amazingly, Michael said they don't notice that much difference on their electric bill come January. "At any given moment only a handful of the lights are on," he said.

The music is transmitted to 106.5 FM, so that passersby can listen through their car radio. The display lasts for two and a half songs. The half song is an intro; the other two are Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," which Michael picked, and Trans Siberian Orchestra's "Nut Rocker," which Heather picked.

Heather said the first time she heard "Nut Rocker" on the radio, she knew it would fit perfectly into their display. "It had a lot of dynamics and accented notes," she said. "I thought the music would go well with the lights."

And, she said, there's an "appearance" of Santa Claus through one of the family's windows.

"All the kids on the street think Santa lives here," she said with a laugh.

The light display begins at 5:30 p.m. daily, ending at 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays the display continues until 10:30 p.m.

Michael said they make sure not to have the display too late to avoid bothering the neighbors. And even though the display has increased traffic in their neighborhood, he said he's only heard positive things from his neighbors.

For the Cermaks, it's just about the spirit of the season.

"I hope this creates a memory as part of their celebration," Heather said.

If you go ...

What: Heather and Mike's Light Show

Where: 1716 Bell Ave., Chambersburg, Pa. It's at the corner of Sollenberger Road and Bell Avenue.

When: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Cost: Free of charge

More: Tune into 106.5 FM to hear music that synchronizes with the light display. Show will not run during bad weather. Please don't roll down your windows while music is playing, and don't block neighbors' driveways.

Watch a video of the lights in action at

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