“Let’s approach this Advent in a new and different way, folks,” wrote the Very Rev. Michael Lumpe, rector of Saint Joseph Cathedral, on the first Sunday of Advent. “Let’s all begin our lives of faith anew, in hopeful anticipation for our Lord, our Savior, and our Redeemer – Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
I can always count on Father Lumpe to share some meaningful advice, and this was no exception. One of the ways I followed his suggestion was by taking a break from the busyness of preparing for Christmas to attend two splendid concerts. Both provided welcome opportunities to contemplate and rejoice in the reason for this special season.
First, we spent a delightful hour with the Magpie Consort, a Columbus-based mixed vocal ensemble that specializes in an a cappella repertoire of Medieval motets and plainsong, Renaissance madrigals and sacred polyphony, 18th-century Psalmody, 20th-century compositions and folk songs. Just like its feathered inspiration, the 14-member group produced a rich layer of sounds.
In a concert titled “A Christmas Remembered: Seasonal Selections in the Magpie Tradition,” the 14 singers performed 22 selections that first followed the Christmas story from the expectation of Christ’s coming to the Nativity, then announced Christ’s birth in the languages and music of four continents. Percussionist Roland Hatcher accompanied the group on several selections.
Joining in on classics like “Wexford Carol;” “Carol of the Bells;” and “Caroling, Caroling” was tempting, but we kept quiet and enjoyed listening to new favorites like “Taladh Chriosta” (Lullaby to the Christ Child); “I Sing of a Maiden;” “Ecce Novum Gaudium” (Behold a New Joy!), from 17th-century Scotland; and the traditional Neapolitan tune, “Quando nascette Ninno” (When the Baby Was Born).
The setting was St. John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington, built between 1827 and 1831. The singers performed in the sanctuary, where four original pillars constructed from milled solid black walnut tree trunks and encased in plaster still stand. Besides hand-hewn native cherry and butternut woods, the interior features dozens of beautiful hand-stitched needlepoint kneelers.
Then, we attended Lessons and Carols at Saint Joseph Cathedral. This splendid concert was given by the Cathedral Choir and its director, Paul Thornock; Principal Organist Robert Wisniewski; and the nine members of Cathedral Brass.
The choir sung Latin motets from the Renaissance and Victorian eras; Johannes Brahms’ “O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf;” Mormon Tabernacle Choir Music Director Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of “Ding! Dong! Merrily on High;” and Hubert Parry’s “I Sing the Birth,” with words by Ben Jonson. The standing-room-only audience chimed in with the choir to sing carols like “Once in Royal David’s City;” Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”; and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Msgr. Stephan Moloney joined members of the Cathedral’s congregation, its deacons and Father Lumpe in reading nine Scripture passages related to the birth of Jesus.
The Magpie Consort will be singing at Franklin Park Conservatory on Saturday, December 20 at 7:00 pm.
The next event in the Cathedral Music 2014-2015 Concert Series is Music for Brass and Organ. It takes place Sunday, January 25, 2015 at 3:00 pm. Additionally, the men of the Cathedral Choir chant the Office of Compline in a 30-minute service at 9:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. Listen to psalms, short passages from scripture, a hymn, a canticle (Nunc Dimittis), a responsory, collect and additional prayers next on Sunday, January 4, 2015. For more information, click here.