by Michael Caruso
The culmination of the 125th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, will be the tour to England taken by the parish’ s choir later this month. The tour will be led by the parish’s music director, Erik Meyer. He will mark the third anniversary of his appointment at St. Martin’s Church in August.
Raised a Lutheran, Meyer described his tenure so far as being a “wild and exhilarating ride. As it turned out, St. Martin’s didn’t fit the stereotype of being just rich and tied to tradition that I had of an Episcopal parish. I had worked in one church for six years, and quite honestly, I was more than a little afraid that I wouldn’t be up to the standard required.” Meyer followed the 25-year tenure of Ken Lovett, who is now the organist at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.
Meyer explained that St. Martin’s most traditional liturgy is the monthly Choral Evensong, a service many consider the glory of Anglicanism. A combination of Roman Vespers and Compline, Evensong was created by Thomas Cranmer in his first Book of Common Prayer. Cranmer was the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Church of England.
The choir’s trip to England is an important part of the parish’s celebration of its 125th anniversary. The Episcopal Church (USA) was a mission church of the Church of England, specifically the Bishop of London. At the time of the American Revolution, its clergy met in Christ Church, Society Hill, to declare its own independence and establish its own hierarchy of bishops and priests. All the same, the spiritual, cultural and emotional ties linking the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church have never been broken.
Meyer and the choir will fly to England July 20, sing Choral Evensongs and Choral Eucharist at Exeter Cathedral July 21-25, and sing Sunday Choral Eucharist at St. Martin’s July 27. The ensemble making the trip features 28 singers.
“Obviously,” Meyer said, “the tour is a wonderful trip for all of us … I know this will be a life-changing experience for us – and I hope it will be a life-changing experience for them, as well.”
The organizers of the summer concerts in Chestnut Hill’s Pastorius Park played Russian roulette with the weather last week — and lost. While the June 25 performance by Mutlu was moved indoors to the lower school auditorium of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Cherokee campus when it didn’t rain, the July 2 performance of The Lawsuits came to a drenching conclusion after only the third song was performed. Following several flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder, the heavens opened up, and torrents of rain poured down, forcing the large audience to flee the park in favor of their homes and cars. The pity was that those three songs revealed a four-piece band of surpassing distinction.
The Lawsuits have a classic rock ‘n’ roll sound, heavy on the bass and drums but nonetheless led by the vocals. There were even passages when all the instruments dropped out to let the singing take over completely and to stunning effect.
I was disappointed that I didn’t have the chance to hear more of the band’s work, and I hope to do so in the future. Perhaps the concert might be re-scheduled to after the stated end of the season?