By Michael Caruso
Hot on the heels of the July trip to the United Kingdom by the choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill’s “other” Episcopal parish, the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, is sending its choir, music director and guest accompanist on a similar pilgrimage.
Erik Meyer will lead a total of 40 singers, plus Parker Kitterman (music director at Old Christ Episcopal Church in Old City), on a weeklong adventure to England Monday, Aug. 14, through Sunday, Aug. 20. The principal focus of the pilgrimage will be a choral residency at Bristol Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. The ensemble will also sing at Westminster Abbey in London Thursday, Aug. 17.
Bristol is a port city in southwest England that traces its roots back to the ancient Roman Empire. Its Cathedral was founded in 1142 and consecrated in 1146 as St. Augustine’s Abbey. When King Henry VIII dissolved the English monasteries during the era in which he broke with the Roman Catholic Church over his divorce of Queen Catharine, formerly of Aragon, Spain, it became the seat of the newly created Diocese of Bristol with its own bishop.
Like many Gothic churches and cathedrals throughout Europe, it took centuries to complete. In the case of Bristol Cathedral, the completion didn’t occur until 1877. The Norman-style structure boasts a nave of 300 feet, a transept of 29 feet and a height of 52 feet. Its resident choir includes 32 choristers (evenly divided between boys and girls who are taught at the cathedral choir school), four lay clerks and four choral scholars.
Meyer explained that St. Martin’s Choir is scheduled to sing Choral Evensong everyday plus Choral Eucharist on Sunday. The choir will also sing Hans Leo Hassler’s “Missa Secunda” on Saturday for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which actually falls on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
“With only two exceptions,” he said, “our repertoire will be American. I don’t like to compete with the English on their home field, and I think they appreciate our bringing to them some of our music they haven’t heard. We’ll be singing one of my settings of the ‘Magnificat’ and ‘Nunc Dimittis’ and one of Parker’s. He’ll conduct the performance of his own setting while I will accompany at the organ; for all the others, I’ll conduct and he’ll accompany. The space is too large and the choir and organ console too separated for one person to do both comfortably.
“We’ll also be singing a setting of the Evening Service by David Hogan that he composed for the National Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,” Meyer continued. “I wanted to do something ‘local’ to Philadelphia, so we’re singing Jennifer Higdon’s arrangement of the hymn, ‘Promised Land.’” Higdon lives in Philadelphia and teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music. Meyer added that the choir will sing Healy Willan’s ‘Rise up my love, my fair one,’ and that Kitterman will play organ preludes and postludes at the start and conclusion of the services, as well.
“I, myself, love England,” Meyer said, “and I’ve got family there. When we’re out in the countryside especially, I don’t feel like I’m in a foreign country. And these choral residencies achieve something special for the choir. They provide us with a musical and liturgical connection to the Church of England, the ‘mother church’ of the Anglican Communion to which the American Episcopal Church belongs.
“For this one, particular week, we’re the cathedral choir for everyone and anyone who attends its services. Our singing together at Bristol Cathedral forges that connection with our Anglican patrimony. Singing the texts and the music of the ‘Magnificat’ and ‘Nunc Dimittis’ changes how we feel about the words. There’s a beauty that we derive from taking part in the daily rhythm of prayer and praise.”
The Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul will host a concert performed by The Same Stream professional choir Monday, Aug. 7, at 7:30 p.m. The choir will perform several works composed by Paul Mealor, including his “Stabat Mater.” Admission to the concert is free. It will be followed by a reception and question-and-answer session with the composer.
The Same Stream is a professional choir comprised of graduates from the Westminster Choir College located in Princeton, New Jersey. It is directed by James Jordan.
Speaking of his work with the choir, Mealor has said, “I am excited to be working with the fabulous Same Stream choir. They sing with such warmth, honesty and beauty. I just know that they will bring my music to life with such professionalism, tonal and melodic warmth and a true sense of beauty.”
Jordan has added, “It has been a dream of mine to record an album of my friend Paul Mealor’s music. The Same Stream has both a love and a deep-seated affinity for Paul’s music and the message it holds for listeners around the world.”
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is located just off Logan Circle on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City Philadelphia. For more information, visit www.cathedralphilaconcerts.org.
You can contact NOTEWORTHY at Michaelemail@example.com.