February 18, 2023
The St. Paul Choir, the primary music ensemble of the historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Lee’s Summit, has developed a reputation for amazing variety in public performances. The Choir performs an annual sing-along of Handel’s MESSIAH each December. They performed German cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach and Dietrich Buxtehude for Holy Week last spring. The group has performed a Black History Month program of gospel music in 2022, and the Men of the St. Paul Choir have performed “A Testament of Freedom” as a patriotic celebration in 2021. This coming April the choir’s a cappella ensemble will perform the “1605 REQUIEM” by 17th century Spanish composer Thomas Luis de Victoria.
Now, The St. Paul Choir is planning a “Camp Meeting Celebration” of evangelical American songs and hymns from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of an Episcopal church choir mounting a performance of this music, and that make this program all the more exciting,” says Dr. William Baker, music director for St. Paul’s Church since September 2020. “Though mostly conceived from the traditions of Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterians in the years following the Civil War, the camp meeting songs are a part of the heritage of all Americans. Most people nowadays come to their faith traditions from a number of ancestral streams that have blended together over the years. I believe in celebrating as broad a heritage of worthy sacred music as we possibly can. Our St. Paul Choir, that appropriately sings it’s share of English Renaissance music that is our Anglican heritage, is really enjoying preparing this unique program.
The St. Paul Choir will perform the Camp Meeting Celebration on Sunday, February 19, 4:00 PM, at the church located at 416 SE Grand Avenue in Lee’s Summit. Admission is free with donations accepted. A wine and cookie reception will follow the performance, presented by the Friends of St. Paul’s Music.
“The Camp Meetings of the late 19th century were much wilder affairs than modern people might imagine. Sometimes they would last for days, including hours of singing, long messages by itinerant evangelists, and numerous social events and community meals. It is unlikely the services were followed by wine and cookie receptions, but it is fitting that we enjoy our own traditions,” says associate music director, Dr. Jamea Sale.
The St. Paul Choir will be joined in performance by guest pianist and composer Dr. Geoffrey Wilcken, know primarily as a professor, conductor of Songflower Chorale, and Organist for the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Wilcken also appears frequently in jazz performances in Kansas City and Lawrence. On organ and piano he is known for his free improvisations. William Baker says, “Geoff is a perfect guest for these songs, as the pianists of old would often make things up as the music unfolded.”
The one-hour program will include choral arrangements by The St. Paul Choir, including “Walk Together Children,” “Songs of the Soul,” “Set Down Servant,” and “He Has the Power.” Soloists and small ensembles will perform favorites to include, “How Great Thou Art,” “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” and “The Ninety and Nine.” There will be a host of favorite songs led on guitar and banjo by Associate Priest Father Steven Rottgers. These will include songs like “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Unclouded Day.”
For information on the Camp Meeting Celebration, or the music ministry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, call 816-524-3651 or email email@example.com.