Have you ever been to a hymn festival?
I had not until last night.
I attended and enjoyed a hymn festival at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kansas City. It was put on by The St. Olaf Cantorei and was one of a series of these "A Sing For Joy Hymn Festival." The name was "When in our Music God is Glorified."
Apparently Sing for Joy is a radio program. The host of this radio program, Bruce Benson, read the reflections and Scripture readings throughout the program. The series of hymn festivals are produced through this radio program, it seems from the information available in the program.
Having never been to one of these before, I didn't know what to expect. When we arrived, it was a quick walk to the seating area in the church. We visited for a bit before the music began.
The first thing I noticed was the program contained all of the music for the evening because audience participation in the singing is expected. I didn't mind because I love to sing. And I noticed a few of the hymns were familiar.
Since I didn't know what a hymn festival was, I had not expected that the evening would be full of prayer. What a pleasant surprise!
The St. Olaf Cantorei sang beautifully. This hymn festival was structured like a 90 minute scripture part-lesson, part-reflection. There was a reading from the Gospel of Luke (the story of what happened on the Road to Emmaus) and there was plenty of scripture in the music as well.
I particularly enjoyed a piece setting the story of Elijah's encounter witht he Lord from the first book of Kings. The song was written and performed in such a way that you had a profound reflection on the fact that the Lord was there in the still small voice/whisper after all of the loud and "big" events in which people expect God to be.
The reflections were thoughtfully written and spoken to link the music to the Bible and to our relationship with God.
If you're like me, the only way you ever knew there was a place called St. Olaf was because the character Rose, on the T.V. show, The Golden Girls, was from there and always relayed funny stories about "life in St. Olaf". But I am happy to say that I now have a greater appreciation for St. Olaf. St. Olaf college was founded in 1874 and is a liberal arts college o the church in the Lutheran tradition (ELCA). I enjoyed reading about their college in the program and about the conductor, John Ferguson.
This is the kind of "cultural" experience I haven't had a chance to cultivate for many years. It was a spur-of-the-moment type of invitation to attend this last night and I am so glad I went!