Singers say Lenten experience enhanced by music performed with Chamber Choir

Kevin Birch conducts a rehearsal of the Chamber Choir at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor.
Andrea Hand
Kevin Birch conducts a rehearsal of the Chamber Choir at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor.
Posted March 27, 2014, at 3:35 p.m.
The Chamber John of St. John Catholic Church rehearses at the York Street church in Bangor.
Andrea Hand
The Chamber John of St. John Catholic Church rehearses at the York Street church in Bangor.
Kevin Birch directs the Chamber Choir at St. John Catholic Church during a rehearsal for a Sacra Musica concert.
Andrea Hand
Kevin Birch directs the Chamber Choir at St. John Catholic Church during a rehearsal for a Sacra Musica concert.

BANGOR, Maine — Performing with the Chamber Choir at St. John Catholic Church this time of year enhances the singers’ Lenten experiences, choir members said the week before Sunday’s concert.

Lisa Wahlstrom of Bangor said that “participating in this experience reminds me every day of God’s endless love.”

“Rehearsing for our concert adds another layer of awareness to Lenten preparation,” Bruce Mallonee of Bangor said. “One layer is Sunday services; one is daily discipline — for me this year, no coffee; another is refining this music.

“Between rehearsals, I have the program running through my head every day,” the tenor said. “By the time we reach the concert, the singing seems as much a gift to the audience as it does a performance.”

This year that “gift” will include S.S. Wesley’s “Ascribe Unto the Lord,” and Herbert Howells’ “Gloucester Service.” All of the pieces in Sunday’s program are new to the choir except for “Abendlied” by Josef Rheinberger, choir director and organist Kevin Birch said.

“Much of this music is so beautiful and inspired that just hearing it is a spiritual experience,” bass Don Conte of Orland said. “Studying and participating in its incarnation with such a fine choir, under such a learned director in such a beautiful setting week after week is like making a Lenten retreat.”

The ecumenical choir has performed sacred music twice a year, during Advent and Lent, for nearly two decades.

“The concert gives us the opportunity to share the texts using the powerful medium of music,” said tenor Les Myers of Old Town. “I like to think that audience members will be blessed in two ways: if they are believers, the music will soak into their souls; if they are just music lovers, they will come away with a rich cultural experience that may have lasting, and perhaps, unbidden, Lenten effects that the chamber choir and I helped shape.”

Birch does not charge admission to the concert but accepts donations. This year, proceeds from the Lenten concert will go to fuel assistance.

Lenten Musica Sacra will be presented at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at St. John Catholic Church, 207 York St., Bangor.

 

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