by Michael Caruso

Three of Greater Philadelphia’s most prominent churches will be hosting musical events this weekend. Not surprisingly, all three of them are located in Chestnut Hill. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church gets the ball rolling with the opening of its “Five Fridays” series of fundraising chamber music recitals Friday at 7:30 p.m. Then, on Sunday afternoon, both the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will offer performances: Choral Evensong at 5 p.m. at the former and the first of the series “Cantatas and Chamber Music” at the latter, also at 5 p.m.

“Five Fridays” raises money for Face-to-Face Germantown and the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network. Both organizations help individuals, challenged by the complexities of contemporary American life, to transition from living in shelters to finding affordable housing and paying jobs. Thanks to the generosity of local sponsors, all ticket proceeds are given to the two charities. St. Paul’s Church covers all other auxiliary costs.

The series opens Oct. 2 with cellist Gabriel Cabezas and pianist Charles Abramovic. General admission is $30, with seniors and students charged $20. Visit


The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill will open its 2015-16 season of “Cantatas and Chamber Music” Sunday afternoon recitals Oct. 4 with “Voices and Viols – Music of the English Renaissance for Singers and Viol Consort.” The one-hour performance starts at 5 p.m., with a wine-and-cheese reception at 4:30 p.m.

Overseeing the series and the congregation’s music program is Dan Spratlan, back in town after a busy summer that included singing in a performance of Richard Strauss’ opera, “Daphne,” with the Cleveland Orchestra in New York’s Lincoln Center. Spratlan is also a regular member of The Crossing, Donald Nally’s chamber choir specializing in contemporary music. Nally will lead The Crossing, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, in “Reprise 1” Sunday, Oct. 18, 4 p.m., in Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church.

Spratlan, the church’s music director for four years, explained that the singers featured in the “Cantatas and Chamber Music” series are drawn from the eight professional soloists who are at the core of the congregation’s 30-member Chancel Choir. He also directs the congregation’s children’s choir, which sings once a month and numbers 20.

The choir will also take part in the church’s annual Festival of Music and Arts. “We’ll be performing Bach’s ‘Magnificat’ and Part One of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with the PCCH Consort of period instruments” on Saturday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m.


Sunday afternoon, Oct. 4, 5 p.m. marks the resumption of the monthly celebration of Anglican Choral Evensong at the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill. Parish music director Erik Meyer said that the overarching theme of the entire season of Evensongs through June is the programming of music composed after 1950 with one notable exception — the first service of the season.

“We were approached by several organizations — the English Speaking Union, the Sons of St. George (the patron saint of England) and the Philadelphia Society of St. Andrew (the patron saint of Scotland) — to be part of the marking of Queen Elizabeth II’s becoming the longest reigning British monarch in history.” The Queen surpassed the length of tenure of her great-great-grand mother Queen Victoria Sept. 9 of this year. Elizabeth ascended the throne Feb. 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI.

Meyer said, “It will be a classic program of English music: Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ and Parry’s ‘I Was Glad.’ It could very well be standing room only!”

Meyer explained his choice for the remainder of the season of Choral Evensongs by pointing out that the traditional repertoire of 19th and early 20th century choral settings of the texts of the liturgy — Psalm, “Magnificat,” “Nunc Dimittis” and Offertory anthem — have perhaps become overly familiar. He also admitted that, considering the limited budget within which he must work, securing all the scores needed to flesh out the project might prove a challenge.

“I’ve found some real gems,” he pointed out, “although it’s true that you have to weed your way through more than a little junk. But happily the members of our choir, four professional core singers and 30 volunteers, not only have risen to the challenge of new music; they enjoy it.”

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