especially to Alvin Brooks
for leading us in the final poem
Dr David Nelson’s account of the festive evening
view photos from the Candlemas observance
download the 8-page program in PDF
download the 2017 program with texts in PDF
download the unprinted poems PDF
view The Star Candlemas preview
MAJOR 2018 BENEFACTORS
L J Archias
Larry L McMullen
The Reverend David E Nelson, DMin
for Reports 2017 including Photos
Click here for a PDFof the 8-PAGE 2017 PRINTED PROGRAM
is from the Greater Kansas City
When folks arrived, we saw tiny points of lights in the bushes and the grounds of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral’s courtyard welcoming the crowd. The entire Candlemas evening — beginning with the complimentary reception in Founders Hall sponsored by Central Seminary, followed by viewing the art of the Saint John’s Bible volumes there (touching this masterpiece only after washing hands!), and the short organ recital in the nave, and then the Candlemas program itself — it all fit together. There was time to be social, time to be contemplative, and time to consider how even candlelight points beyond itself to justice, peace, and the divine.
I especially liked the way the program began with five minutes of silence in the beauty of the Cathedral nave, lit with 80 small candles in the stone windows, with the unlit candles we were given as we arrived. As we awaited the performance to begin, we enjoyed the quiet in the sacred company of others, so rare in the world today. The unfolding hour was unrushed. We were asked to withhold applause until the end of the hour.
In the chancel were objects from many world faiths, including a Qur'an open to Surah 24 An-Nur (Light), a Hindu oil lamp, an American Indian drum, two menorahs, and a stone image recalling the Paleolithic.
From the rear, acolyte Deante Finnie, swinging a thurible with incense from the Buddhist temple at Mount Hiei, Japan, and acolyte Curtis Hamilton with a single candle lit, led a procession forward. World-famous guitarist Beau Bledsoe playing “Lantururu” by Gaspar Sanz on the ud was followed by Vern Barnet (who organized the evening) carrying a vessel of the Waters of the World. Then came actor Edward Straub, the Hon. Alvin Brooks, and representatives of the three families of faith, the Rev. Kara Hawkins (Primal—American Indian spirituality), the Most Venerable Sunyananda Dharma (Asian—Buddhism), and Cindy McDavitt (Monotheistic—Christian, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). They were followed by the eight voices of the Sacred Arts Chorale and their director, Dr. Rebecca Johnson.
From the processional candle, the acolytes began lighting the many candles in the chancel, and Dharma and Barnet took the flame down the aisle, row by row, so that after a time, everyone’s candle was burning. It was a rare experience in such a holy place. For a few minutes, the only light in the Cathedral expanse was from candles.
Then all the candles, including those on a table representing the various kinds for the Cathedral to use in the coming twelve months, were blessed by everyone reading a prayer celebrating light in all world faiths. The Chorale sang words written especially for the occasion to the haunting “Third Tune” by Thomas Tallis, and then the acolytes censed and sprinkled everyone with Waters of the World, a symbol of interfaith understanding developed by the Interfaith Council. This was done in silence, so meaningful in this context. As we extinguished our little lights, our attention was drawn to the Light Invisible.
The main musical work of the evening was the complete Missa Pange lingua by Josquin des Pres sung by the Chorale, juxtaposing the famous passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth — “Out, out brief candle!” — with John Donne’s sonnet, “Death, be not proud.” Then the audience sang “The Call” with words adapted for the occasion from W.H. Auden with the thrilling Cathedral organ. Staub concluded his readings with Barnet’s new sonnet, “Candlemas 2018,” followed by soloist Jonathan Ray singing the “Nunc Dimittis” Gregorian chant, awesome in this house of prayer.
All this led to the astonishingly appropriate Farewell
words from Auden, below, spoken by all as we stood, led by Brooks. In 1990
the President designated him one of our nation’s thousand points of light.
Brooks means so much in our work for inclusion and justice in Kansas City
Then the acolytes, with a single candle flame and a festive banner, led all the performers to recess with Bledsoe repeating the felicitous Sanz tune.
You can download the handsome illustrated 8-page color festival program and the additional sheet of the texts read but not included in the printed program itself at www.cres.org/Candlemas. The program includes information about the historic Saint John’s Bible, the first in 500 years to be hand-written and illustrated on vellum. Catherine Green and Ellen Spake curated this treasure for us, with the assistance of Jim Martin, Mary DeVeau, and the Dean, the Very Reverend Peter DeVeau.
You’ll also find the three works by Bach, Wood, and Franck performed by Cathedral organist and music director, Dr. Paul Meier, who was featured in the Kansas City Star the Sunday before Candlemas. This story, and the story in December about Dr. Johnson, are also posted on the CRES website. The program lists additional credits for this complex evening that felt so unforced, so natural, so beautiful, so meaningful — in this difficult time, a brilliant point of light.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS
for providing these photos.
Central Seminary sponsored a complimentary reception at 6 pm,
before the other events of the evening.
Catherine Green comments on one of the volumes of the Saint John’s Bible.
The Cathedral owns a complete set of one of the 299 exact copies.
Dr Paul Meier, Cathedral Director of Music,
performed a short recital at 6:30 in the nave. File photo
In the Christian tradition, Candlemas is a Marian feast; blue is the Marian color.
Cathedral member Gerry Reynaud arranged the light display.
With printed programs and chocolate, heart-shapped truffles, courtesy
of André’s, CRES assistant Ryan Gates greeted folks as they entered the nave.
Acolytes Deante Finnie and Curtis Hamilton lit the 80 candles in the nave windows.
On display at the front of the nave were different kinds of candles
such as to be used in the coming year, blessed according to tradition. file photo
The Gospel volume of the Saint John’s Bible
open to the Luke 2 passage for Candlemas. file photo
Before the Candlemas ceremony began, the Rev Canon Evelyn Hornaday,
Cathedral sub-dean, welcomed everyone.
Acolyte Curtis Hamilton signaled the observance of the feast
by placing the bell banner in the chancel.
Then the procession began, with him carrying a single lit candle forward,
with acolyte Deante Finnie censing the sacred space,
Beau Bledsoe playing the ud, Vern Barnet carrying Waters of the World,
followed by the Hon Alvin Brooks, actor Edward Straub, and
representatives of the three families of world religions, the Rev Kara Hawkins,
Cindy McDavitt, and the Most Venerable Sunyananda Dharma.
Acolyte Deante Finnie (and acolyte Curtis Hamilton)
began lighting candles in the chancel.
the Holy Table and moved down the central nave aisle to give the flame to others.
Dharma offers his flame to those on the font side central aisle. file photo
Various views of the gathering with candles lit.
As the Sacred Arts Chorale, directed by Dr Rebecca Johnson, sang new words to
“The Third Tune” by Thomas Tallis, one acolyte springled Waters of the World
on the singers and the gathering, and the other censed the people.
file inset photo of acolyte with aspergillum.
The Chorale performed the complete Missa Pange lingua
by Josquin des Pres and “The Call” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Beau Bledsoe featured “Minha Alma” by Marta Pereira da Costa
with music by Gaspar Sanz and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Interspersed with the music, actor Edward Starub read selections of poetry
related to the theme of light from TS Eliot, Shakespeare, Donne, and Barnet.
The Hon Al Brooks, one of the nation’s Presidential “points of light,”
led the gathering reading in unison the Farewell piece of poetry by WH Auden.
Here the Cathedral Dean, the Very Reverend Peter DeVeau, introduces Al.
The Chorale’s Jonathan Ray sang the Candlemas “Nunc Dimittis”
just before the Farewell. (Oops, photos out of order!)
The second photo shows the acolytes forming the recessional party,
after which the performers were greeted by the extraordinary audience.
No, the groundhog did not attend Candlemas.
But we include the critter here lovingly because even the secular morphing
of Candlemas into Groundhog Day reveals the universal fascination with light.
Si Sol splenescat Maria purificante / Major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.
Jan 28, 2018
BY PATRICK NEAS Special to The Star
Paul Meier had big shoes to fill when he took over as director of music for Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral. His predecessor, John Schaefer, had established the Episcopal cathedral as an important player in Kansas City’s classical music community, providing a venue for arts organizations as well as maintaining one of the best church music programs in the city.
By all accounts, Meier’s first year, which began on Feb. 1, 2017, has been a success. To celebrate he’ll present a short organ recital preceding a Candlemas concert by the Sacred Arts Chorale on Feb. 2 at the cathedral.
Meier grew up in the small town of Port Angeles, Wash., on the Olympic peninsula. It’s about as far northwest as you can get. As a child, he and his brother were drawn to music. While his older brother learned to play the organ, Meier took piano lessons. Then one fateful day, his brother went to the bathroom.
“My mom would take me to church when my brother would practice on the organ so I wouldn’t be left at home alone,” Meier said. “At the time, I was practicing a Bach piece on the piano at home, and when my brother went to the bathroom, I got up and tried it out on the organ. I discovered it’s fun to play the organ because you can make a lot of noise. I just enjoyed doing that, so I continued doing that, and I’m still doing that.”
Meier was the assistant director of music for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, which has three organs and an acclaimed music program. Grace & Holy Trinity only has one organ, but it’s not too shabby. The 48-stop, 67-rank Gabriel Kney tracker organ played a part in Meier’s decision to take the job in Kansas City.
“You don’t take a job just because of the organ, but it’s a lovely mechanical action instrument, and it was a definite plus,” he said. “It does Bach and his ilk well, and Bach’s my favorite composer.”
Meier intends to maintain and expand Schaefer’s musical legacy. He lives downtown and would like to add programs to appeal to younger people who are living in greater numbers near the cathedral. Meier looks to St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle for inspiration. Every Sunday at 9 p.m., the Seattle Cathedral presents a compline service complete with high church liturgy and traditional choral music. It’s always a packed house, with many young hipsters sitting on the floors, being transported by the music.
“I couldn’t believe it when I attended there, the crazy response that they get,” Meier said. “It’s a cool thing, and I’d love for us to be able to embrace that. Compline is very cleansing. It’s at the end of the day and very relaxing and it’s so much part of the Anglican tradition.”
Meier hopes the Candlemas concert will draw in some of the First Friday art lovers who are wandering downtown and the Crossroads. The feast of Candlemas celebrates the ritual purification of Mary, which took place 40 days after the birth of Christ. The traditional liturgy includes blessing the candles that the church will use in the coming year, as well as candles brought by congregants.
Grace & Holy Trinity’s concert, sponsored in part by the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, is not a religious service, however, and will appeal to those of all faiths.
The Sacred Arts Chorale directed by Rebecca Johnson will perform the Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin des Prez, one of the greatest choral works of the Renaissance. Lutanist Beau Bledsoe will play musical interludes, and Eddie Straub will read poetry by William Shakespeare, John Donne, T.S. Eliot and Kansas City’s own bard, Vern Barnet. At 6:30 p.m., Meier will give an organ recital of music by Bach, Charles Wood and César Franck. There will be free child care and a complimentary reception after the concert.
So far, Meier is thoroughly enjoying his time in Kansas City and is looking forward to serving the cathedral and the community for many years to come.
“It’s a wonderful city of surprises,” Meier said. “I grew up in lumber country, so I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful trees and the green hills. I had a colleague who said this, and I think it’s true, Kansas City punches above its weight in terms of the arts. I mean, to have a symphony orchestra where the players have a new, beautiful, wonderful hall instead of having budget cutbacks. People get excited about the arts here. That’s a really neat thing.”
Paul Meier, conducting the Trinity Choir of Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, will celebrate his first anniversary as music director with a short organ recital preceding a Candlemas concert by the Sacred Arts Chorale on Feb. 2 at the cathedral. [On-line Photo Credit: Vern Barnet]
THE CLASSICAL BEAT
BY PATRICK NEAS Special to The Star
Franz Schubert is certainly in the pantheon of great composers. In his short life, he composed countless piano pieces, nine symphonies, an opera, all sorts of Masses and liturgical works and hundreds of songs. But Schubert never composed music specifically for Christmas. There is, however, a serene spirituality to his music that is in keeping with the Christmas season.
The Sacred Arts Chorale led by Rebecca Iohnson will celebrate this spirit with “A Schubertian Christmas” Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Simpson House. The Sacred Arts Chorale, comprising nine singers and piano accompanist Charles Dickinson, will perform music by Schubert, as well as a couple of pieces by Felix Mendelssohn and César Franck. Guitarist Braulio Bosi also will provide some interludes.
The Sacred Arts Chorale may not be that well known, but cognoscenti recognize Johnson and her singers as a refined choir that sings exquisite repertoire. The choir is sponsored and supported by the Central Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We've been around for a while,” Johnson said. “Our original goal was to help those folks who were going into full-time ministry have a broader understanding of sacred music. That's how it started eight or nine yea.rs ago.
“My husband (Robert Johnson} is the provost at Central Seminary, and he had long wished for a broader understanding of music in sacred settings, especially in what small Protestant churches in the Midwest were providing. He was looking for something beyond praise bands and those kinds of things. Not that there’s judgment on any of that.”
Schubert’s music will almost certainly never be performed by a praise band. There's a med- itative, almost ethereal quality to much of his music that doesn’t fit in with raucous contempo- rary church music. A good example is his famous “Ave Maria,” which will be performed by the Sacred Arts Chorale.
The original text of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” was a German translation of a poem from “The Lady of the Lake” by Scottish poet Walter Scott. Although each stanza begins with “Ave Maria,” the rest of the poetry is secular. It was only later that someone arranged the entire “Ave Maria” prayer to fit Schubert's music. It’s that version that has made “Ave Maria” Schubert’s greatest hit and a wedding staple.
“Schubert’s music is stunningly gorgeous,” Johnson said. “We started snooping around and found one piece after another that made us cry, it was so pretty. “In my mind I saw some of those paintings of the salons of Paris where there's an elegance and a gentleness about the whole setting. And there was a lightness and a gentleness to the music we kept fnding. It felt like a stepping aside of the usual Christmas carols. Just a little different, intimate and sweet.”
2 p.m. Dec. 17. Simpson House, 4509 Walnut St. The
concert is free; first come, first seated. 913-667-5734.
|Commentary before Macbeth reading
Candlemas is about light in the darkness. In Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, in anguish about the vanity of life, speaks of blowing out its candle — life is so meaningless; but John Donne, whose words we hear after the Kyrie Gloria of the Mass, claims that death itself will be defeated. Proceeding through this hour, we will arrive at W H Auden's sighting of points of light wherever the Just exchange their messages, as we do by our presences tonight; he prays, like these points of light, composed of Eros and of dust, to show an affirming flame.
Introduction to the Farewell text