Where Lights Dance to the Music: Holiday Displays Set To Sound

A holiday lighting display choreographed to music takes decorating to a new level.

Holiday Lighting Display
Jack Klingert, a former Bell Labs engineer, synchronizes the holiday decorations at his Warren home with Christmas carols broadcast on an FM radio station.
Photo by Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Count on a former Bell Labs engineer to take outdoor holiday decorating to a new level.

Warren resident Jack Klingert uses 20,000 energy-efficient LED lights, 21 controllers, 1½ miles of wire and roughly 600 extension cords to create an animated light show on his front lawn.

But what makes this holiday display unique is that it is choreographed to music.

Klingert utilizes a computer software program—written by like-minded hobbyists—to painstakingly synchronize the lights to soft, reverent Christmas carols. He works most evenings throughout the year tweaking and adjusting his show.

“You’re trying to make the effects dance to music,” says Klingert, 51. “So you’re looking on the computer screen going, ‘Okay, I want to make sure that when this drum beats, I have this, and when the children sing, it does this, and when they’re singing about the star in the sky, the Christmas-tree star lights up.’”

Visitors to his home at 80 Briarwood Drive East can listen to the music while watching the lights by tuning their car radios to 92.7 FM—a radio frequency that is not used locally. The approximately 25-minute light show runs, weather permitting, from November 23 until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. It plays as a continuous loop from 6 to 10 pm, and until midnight on Christmas Eve.

By using LED lights, Klingert keeps his electric bill to a minimum. “I pretty much ran the entire show last year off of one outlet,” he says. “Your microwave uses more power than my Christmas show.”

Klingert debuted his holiday display last December with the help of an online community of fellow hobbyists (including some in New Jersey) and the website doityourselfchristmas.com. In January and February, the group orders supplies in bulk from manufacturers in China, South Africa and elsewhere. Design and programming is a year-long labor of love, but Klingert says it takes just a day and a half to actually set up the display on his lawn, with the help of his wife, Teri, also a former engineer at Bell Labs, and their daughter, a college engineering student.

“It’s about spreading some joy at the holiday season,” he says. “We’re so busy in the hustle and bustle of Christmas, and you don’t stop to enjoy some simple music, some simple lights.”

Simple? It is to an engineer.

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