Music has always had the power to deepen and enrich the act of worship. This fall brings two performances of sacred and gospel songs designed to move listeners into a more personal praise experience.
English college choir coming to Anniston
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church of Anniston will host the Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in concert on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
“A Treasury of Sacred and Secular Music from England and Beyond” will include songs from different musical traditions. The choir, made up of 23 singers and two organ scholars under the direction of Gareth Wilson, is one of the United Kingdom’s leading collegiate choirs.
“This is a rare opportunity for our parish, which promises to be nothing short of spectacular,” said David Hodnett, assistant to the priest at St. Michael’s. “We hope that people from across the state and region will join us for this very special event.”
St. Michael’s is the only stop in Alabama that the choir is making on its United States tour.
Tickets for the concert are $10 for adults and $5 for students. A reception will follow. Contact the church at 256-237-4011 for tickets.
The choir will perform a wide range of choral music spanning the centuries. The program includes:
• “I was Glad” by Henry Purcell (1659-95).
• “Blessed be the God and Father” by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-76).
• Organ solo, Postlude in D minor (Op. 105, No. 6) by Charles Stanford (1852-1924).
• “Like as the Hart” by Herbert Howells (1892-1983).
• “I’m a Pilgrim” by Julian Anderson (born 1967).
• “On the Street Where You Live” from the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” by Lerner and Loewe, sung by the Caius Girls.
• “Fly Me to the Moon,” an American standard by Bert Howard, made famous by Frank Sinatra, sung by the Caius Boys.
Besides performing in concert halls, the choir is known for its recordings and broadcasts. The ensemble also travels extensively abroad to venues such as cathedrals and churches.
The ensemble’s recordings have often specialized in the re-discovery of forgotten choral pieces, including previously unpublished music from within the English choral tradition.
John Ward Noble, the man who built St. Michael’s and gave the church to Anniston would be happy about the choir’s engagement. Perhaps there were churches with similar architecture in his native Cornwall, England. Perhaps some of the selections to be sung Sept. 20 are similar to the ones he heard in Cornwall.
The English choral tradition is important to St. Michael’s, according to David Ford, senior warden. “Our roots are in England,” he said.
The choir’s recording “Romania: Choral Music from Brazil” presents sacred and secular music reflecting life in Brazil through the words of music.
The recording “Music from the Lost Palace of Westminster” includes songs from the Caius Choirbook. This is a manuscript with music probably sung at the Royal Palace of St. Stephen’s, Westminster, around 1520.
“Set upon the Rood” (“crucifix”), released in 2017, contains seven recently composed pieces for voices. In the recording, ancient instruments were used, including the aulos (an ancient Greek wind instrument), the carnyx (an iron-bronze trumpet that Celtic people used in battle) and the lyre (a stringed instrument of Greek antiquity). Similar in appearance to a small harp, the lyre could very well represent the type of instrument King David played, as recorded in the Old Testament.
The glory of Christmas is expressed in the choir’s latest CD, “Cantique de Noel.”
‘Smoke on the Mountain’ in Gadsden
It’s safe to say that this musical is back by popular demand. It has proven to be a crowd favorite and is returning for one weekend only, performed by Theatre of Gadsden at the Ritz Theatre on Oct. 11-13.
“Smoke on the Mountain” tells the story of a Saturday night gospel sing at a country church in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1938.
The show features two dozen rousing bluegrass songs played and sung by the Sanders Family, a traveling group making its return to performing after a five-year hiatus.
Pastor Oglethorpe, the young and enthusiastic minister of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, has enlisted the Sanders Family in his efforts to bring his tiny flock into “the modern world.” But he finds them hard to handle.
Between songs, each family member “witnesses” by telling a story about an important event in their life. Though they try to appear perfect in the eyes of a congregation, they don’t quite achieve that — but their hearts are in the right place.
One thing after another goes awry, but even with their shortcomings, they are lovable characters. By the evening’s end, the Sanders Family, with their musical talent and testimonies, endear themselves to us as sincere Christians.
Tickets may be purchased by calling 256-547-7469.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.