Christianity is a singing faith, it’s been said.

Perhaps one of the finest examples of worship strengthened by song will be the Festival Choral Evensong at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church on June 24 by the Parish Choir of St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands from Birmingham. The service will begin at 3:30 p.m.

The choir has been invited to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to be the choir-in-residence. The Evensong service at St Michael’s will be the premiere of the music to be sung at St. Paul’s. A donation offering will be taken to assist in funds for the trip.

Evensong, a service of evening prayer, is a service from the Book of Common Prayer with a long history. It is a main ritual of the Episcopal/Anglican tradition that dates back to 1549.

The organist and music associate for the event will be Josh Bullock, a former Jacksonville State University student and Saks High School graduate. The music director is Ann Giambrone, originally from Hartselle.  

The choir’s repertoire should connect us to worship in a profound way. In fact, two selections evoke a sense of excitement, according to Bullock. They are both canticles, or songs based on Biblical texts.

“In my opinion, the Magnificat (‘Mary’s Song’) and Nunc Dimittis (‘Simeon’s Song’) in particular have moments of thoughtful, deep reflection and profundity,” he said.

“In the Magnificat, there is the excitement of hope, for instance, in the opening text: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’ In contrast, Mary’s verse, ‘And His mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations,’ is quiet and reflective.”

Three of the composers represented on the program are from England. Two, Dan Locklair and Eleanor Daley, are living composers. Their compositions are widely performed in the U.S. and numerous other countries.

One of the especially melodic songs is Daley’s “My Master from a Garden Rose,” which speaks of the Resurrection.

“Now Thank We All Our God” is based on I Chronicles 29:13 and is a favorite especially at Thanksgiving. The hymn recalls the life of German pastor Martin Rinkart.

According to “A Concise History of Western Music” by Barbara Russano Hanning, Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War of 1618-48. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemics and famine.

At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. The other two died.

As the only pastor left, Rinkart often conducted funeral services for as many as 40 to 50 people a day — some 4,480 in all — and soon, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services. Peace was on the horizon, but Rinkart’s world was dominated by death. Still, he wrote this timeless prayer of thanksgiving for his children.

“Now Thank We All Our God,” attributed to J.S. Bach, will close the Evensong service with exuberant praise. (While Bach did not write the hymn, he used it in one of his cantatas, adding ornamental music to it.)

Bullock received a bachelor’s in organ performance from Samford University in Birmingham and a master’s degree at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Alabama and served as organist/choirmaster at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Alabaster. Before going to Saint Mary’s-on-the-Highlands, the organist served as assistant director of music and organist at First United Methodist Church, in Montgomery.

Everyone is invited to Evensong, and Bullock believes it will be especially meaningful. “The church’s sanctuary has a special charm untouched by time,” he said. “There is a delightful aesthetic there that can be felt. With the architecture, the choir, the organ all together you really feel that you’re in a holy place.”

Knox Concerts series opens in September

“To everything there is a season,” Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us. Thankfully, there is a season of music every year in this area, thanks to the Knox Concert Series. Here is the schedule for 2018-19:

Sept. 13: Old Crow Medicine Show is an award-winning American string band based in Nashville. Their music has been called old-time, folk and alternative country. Besides original songs, the band performs pre-World War II blues.

Oct. 25: Don Felder, former lead guitarist of the Eagles. He co-wrote favorites such as “Victim of Love” and “Those Shoes.”

Nov. 8: ARTrageous mixes vocals and choreography for a show takes you on a visual voyage filled with creativity and fun. Prepare to be part of the show.

January: TBA.

Feb. 16: Czech National Orchestra. The orchestra will present a program ranging from classical to contemporary to film scores to jazz or musicals.

March 16: KC and the Sunshine Band. Still widely popular, this band with its unique fusion of R&B and funk is credited with changing the sound of modern pop music.

For ticket details, call Mandi King at 256-235-2553. Also visit www.knoxconcertseries.org to buy tickets online.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.

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