Lift-the-spirit musical events coming to Hill churches

Posted 9/22/16

by Michael Caruso

With Labor Day in the past and the promise of a hint of autumn hopefully soon to be detected in the air, three of Chestnut Hill’s churches are gearing up for the new season …

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Lift-the-spirit musical events coming to Hill churches


by Michael Caruso

With Labor Day in the past and the promise of a hint of autumn hopefully soon to be detected in the air, three of Chestnut Hill’s churches are gearing up for the new season of musical events. Our two Episcopal parishes, St. Paul’s and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill all have slated services and recitals that offer sonic invigorations guaranteed to lift the spirit out of the doldrums of the oppressive summer we’ve recently experienced.

First on the docket will be Choral Evensong at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Sunday, Sept. 25, 5 p.m. The liturgy of Anglican Evensong was established by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century by combining the ancient afternoon and evening Roman liturgies of Vespers and Compline. The tradition of adding fully composed music (rather than simple Anglican chant) to Evensong took place in the 19th century as part of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement. The Sept. 25 service will be sung by the parish’s combined adult and treble choirs and will be followed by the installation of new choristers and a reception in the church hall.

The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields follows suit with its first Choral Evensong Sunday, Oct. 2, also at 5 p.m. Parish music director Erik Meyer has announced a program of music including Herbert Murrill’s “Magnificat” and “Nunc Dimittis,” James Buonemani’s “Responses” and H. Balfour Gardiner’s “Evening Hymn.” The choirs of both St. Martin’s and St. Paul’s Churches will be making trips to England during the summer of 2017.

Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church will open its “Cantatas and Chamber Music” series the same Sunday afternoon, with a pre-concert wine-and-cheese reception at 4:30 p.m. and the performance at 5 p.m.

Church music director Dan Spratlan explained, “We will open the season with a performance of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s ‘Missa Papae Marcelli,' scored for alto, tenor, two baritones and two basses. I will be singing the second bass part. A handful of motets will round out the program.” Alongside directing the music at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian, Spratlan is a founding member of The Crossing, the chamber choir directed by Donald Nally now in its second decade. The Crossing considers Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church its home base.

Speaking of the series of recitals, Pastor Cindy Jarvis said, “The mission of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill includes reclaiming the historic role of the church as a ‘patron of the arts.’ When we renovated the Cruikshank Chapel, our hope was to make yet another space in the church a gathering place for the community and, in particular, to create a beautiful space for more intimate experiences for making music. Our Cantata series seeks to do just that.”

Rounding out the start of the local musical season brings us back to St. Paul’s Church for the first of its “Five Fridays” of fundraising recitals. Each performance raises funds for two local charities, Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network and Face-to-Face Germantown. The series’ first performance is set for Friday, Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.; its first performers are the members of the Franklin Quartet: Dan Elyar (violin & viola), Rebecca Harris (violin), Marika Holmqvist (violin & viola) and Rebecca Humphrey (cello).

Explained Elyar, “The Franklin Quartet performs music from the dawn of the string quartet on period instruments. Named after Age of Enlightenment polymath Benjamin Franklin, the group brings a spirit of invention and exploration to its presentation of the early string quartet repertoire, in particular through its adherence to the historical practice of the upper string players switching parts. Individually, the members of the Quartet possess extensive experience as specialists in historically informed performances practice and are highly sought after as soloists, chamber musicians and orchestral leaders across the U.S. and abroad. Formed in 2016 and based in Philadelphia, the Franklin Quartet proudly embraces its role as the city’s only period string quartet.” The program consists of quartets by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Boccherini.

For more information, call St. Paul’s at 215-242-2055, the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields at 215-247-7466, and the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill at 215-247-8855.