Finding Faith: The joys of holiday music

12280827054?profile=RESIZE_710x The Chancel Choir at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach will perform Nov. 5. Photos provided

By Janis Fontaine

For many people, worshipers and agnostics alike, holiday music is one of the best parts of the holiday season.

“Music is the language of the soul,” says Tim Brumfield, music director at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton. “It’s the great unifier. It bridges the gaps and brings people together.”

Brumfield and the congregation will celebrate the return of music to St. Gregory’s just in time for Christmas Eve.

The sanctuary underwent a total remodel, and the pipe organ had to be carefully protected from the construction mess. It was the first thing the church packed up (hermetically sealed!) and will be the last thing unpacked.

The remodel also removed the carpet and replaced it with a stone floor, improving the acoustics. “The sound had a deadness to it because of that, and now it’s glorious,” Brumfield said. The traditional midnight Mass will be “souped up” with performances by a string orchestra and the choir.

12280835698?profile=RESIZE_400xJody Miller will bring his recorder to St. Paul’s on Dec. 3 in a concert with the Palm Beach Recorder Society Ensemble.

Toot-toot-toot
Music lovers drive from Miami and Port St. Lucie to hear music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, which boasts the best classical music performed in an acoustically astounding sacred setting. This annual concert series has been showcasing the most gifted classical musicians at St. Paul’s for 35 years, and the internationally acclaimed Delray String Quartet kicked off its sixth year as artists-in-residence with a program called “The Bullfighter” on Oct. 15.

The second concert of the season is an observance of All Souls’ Day, the Christian feast that recognizes loved ones who have passed, on Nov. 5. The program, “For Us the Living, a Requiem” by American composer Alfred Fedak, is a solemn requiem Mass sung by St. Paul’s Chancel Choir accompanied by a chamber orchestra. The program is directed by David Macfarlane, the church’s organist and choirmaster.

“I began this annual tradition at St. Paul’s three years ago and it has quickly grown into one of our most beautiful and moving services of the year,” he said.

Missy McArdle, a well-known local actress, has taken up the reins of music at St. Paul’s as its interim director through the end of the year. As a performer, McArdle takes the stage with her fellow members of the Palm Beach Recorder Society Ensemble on Dec. 3 for “A Merrye Noyse,” a performance featuring Jody Miller.

Miller, based in the Atlanta area, is “a whirlwind of a man,” McArdle said. “He’s a strong leader and an engaging teacher.”

Miller’s love of historical music and traditional instruments has filled his life with performances, workshops and small groups focusing on the recorder.

You may think of the recorder as that “toot-toot-toot” instrument thousands of grade schoolers were given as their first musical instrument. Made of plastic, they were incredibly affordable, but most of those recorders ended up in the back of the kids’ closets, or were replaced with “real” instruments like the flute or clarinet by anyone with talent.

In reality, the recorder is simple to learn but it easily can transition from “Three Blind Mice” to Vivaldi’s Recorder Concerto RV 443 in the hands of a good player. It would have stood the test of time but for its volume: The poor, sweet recorder is simply not loud enough to stand up to the other orchestral instruments.

The recorder ensemble has been meeting at St. Paul’s for more than 20 years and is directed by Glen Rovinelli, who is “a magnificent teacher and very knowledgeable,” McArdle says. In full disclosure, the couple has been married for more than 20 years, ever since he gave her an unsolicited critique of her recorder solo from “Godspell.” The group has about 15 members, about half of whom will perform with Miller.

New members are welcomed and can get started with a one-day workshop with Miller and the Palm Beach Recorder & Early Music Society on Dec. 2.

Music at St. Paul’s concerts take place monthly at 3 p.m. on select Sundays. A donation of $25 for adults and $15 for students is requested. Music at St. Paul’s season will include:

The annual performance of “A Festival of Lessons & Carols,” which takes place Dec. 10 and features the church’s choir and schola.

The Muse Duo — Collin Holloway and Robert Luke Benedict performing a guitar and piano concert composed by Benedict on Jan. 21.

Bailey-Michelle Collins, a bronze medal winner at the Nina Simone Piano Competition, who performs March 3.

Stars of David — The Judaic Muse II, featuring music of 19th century Jewish composers for the piano, performed by Jose Lopez, on March 17.

For more information, visit https://musicstpauls.org.

Handel’s ’Messiah’
Among the favorite classical pieces performed at Christmas is Handel’s “Messiah.” While not specifically about Christmas — it tells the story of the life of Jesus from birth through the Resurrection — it’s still a popular piece at the holidays.

The Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches performs Handel’s “Messiah” at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at Royal Poinciana Chapel, 60 Cocoanut Row, Palm Beach. 561-845-9696 or https://masterworkspb.org.

The Florida Atlantic University Chamber Singers with faculty, alumni and friends, and the Schola Cantorum of Florida perform the Christmas portion of “Messiah” under the baton of Dr. Patricia P. Fleitas at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 370 SW Third St., Boca Raton. Tickets are $15 at www.eventbrite.com.

Now for something new
“Journey to Bethlehem,” a new musical feature film about the birth of Jesus, opens at local theaters on Nov. 9. Adam Anders, a four-time Grammy nominee and two-time People’s Choice Award winner, co-wrote, directed and produced the movie. It features 12 original songs, co-written by Anders.

The trailer indicates this is more of a love story than a biblical retelling of the trip Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem. It’s a fresh look at a brave couple who faced down the world with just each other and their faith in God to protect them. Rated PG.

Cinemark Palace 20, 3200 Airport Road, Boca Raton. Shows at 2, 4:50, 7:40, 10:25 p.m.

Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at fontaine423@outlook.com.

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