BANGOR, Maine — Nancy Dymond grew up in St. John’s Episcopal Church but she doesn’t remember ever hearing gospel music in the Gothic-style stone church on French Street.
That will change at 4 p.m. Sunday with “A Service of Light in Celebration of the Life and Witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” at St. John’s, 225 French St.
The special worship service will honor the late civil rights leader whose 80th birthday will be marked Monday.
Dymond is part of a 30-person choir that will perform during the service. It is being co-sponsored by All Souls Congregational Church in Bangor.
“It’s a chance to sing some spirituals and bring a little different sound to St. John’s,” Dymond of Bangor said Thursday night after a rehearsal of the choir, which is made up of 10 members each from St. John’s and All Souls’ choirs and 10 community members known for their vocal abilities.
“We’ve been wanting to do something to honor him for a long time,” the Rev. James Haddix, pastor of All Souls, said Friday. “But with our annual meeting in January, this is a very busy time of year for us. It became possible because we could do something cooperatively. I think it’s going to be a remarkable service.”
Roger George, a member of the St. John’s choir, organized the event and invited singers he knows from performing with the Black Bear Men’s Chorus and Bangor Rotary musical revue to join the choir. A native of Bangor, George said he wants the people who attend the service to honor King, but also to celebrate the future rep-resented by the inauguration Tuesday of Barack Obama as president.
The music has been a challenge for Travis LaCombe, the organist and choirmaster at St. John’s. As he led the group Thursday through a rehearsal of “Riding in the Chariot,” classified as a spiritual, and Charles Albert Tindley’s gospel song, “The Storm is Passing Over,” a well-worn copy of the “Anglican Chant Psalter” was at his feet.
“For a long time, my head, musically, has been into the ‘Psalter’ and traditional Anglican music,” LaCombe of Bangor said after rehearsal. “This is quite a contrast. We do some of the same things in the Psalms [sung at Sunday services], but this music is more obvious and has more passion. It’s less contained.”
Gospel music always moves Darlene Mogul, but she hasn’t had the opportunity to sing a lot of it. A member of Congregation Beth Israel, Mogul of Bangor said she was excited to be part of the choir and the event.
“I did a little gospel in the Memphis Belles,” she said, referring to the female trio she was part of for many years. “It just moves me. It has a lot of feeling and that is my favorite kind of music to sing.”
Although Sunday’s service will be structured the way an Episcopal service is, according to George, it will sound like nothing the walls of the church have heard before.