The Community of Faith Choralfest 2018 was held recently at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Laguna Woods. It was the scene of the fourth-annual celebration of music offered in thanksgiving for the friendship shared and for the faith-filled ministry to the people of God. St. Nicholas parish hosted the event featuring choirs and cantors from six Laguna Woods congregations: Laguna Country Methodist Church, Temple Judea, Geneva Presbyterian Church, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Laguna Hills Korean United Methodist Church, and St. Nicholas Catholic Church.
The church was filled to capacity as the program began with a welcome by Emett Loera, director of Music Ministry at St. Nicholas Parish. The Plaza String Quartet opened the program with the “Brandenburg Concerto No 3, 1st movement” by J.S. Bach.
First to perform in the program was Cantor Josef Chazan of Temple Judea, singing “Velirushalaim Ircha” and “Jerusalem, Your City,” a Hebrew folk song praising the Lord with “Blessed Are You, Oh God, Rebuilder of Jerusalem.” Cantor Chazan was followed by Temple Judea Cantorial Soloist Susan Miller Kotses, singing “L’Dor Va Dor” (Meir Finkelstein).
Next on the program was the Laguna Country Methodist Church Chancel Choir, under the direction of Richard Warne, director of music. The Choir performed two pieces “One Day” (Chapman/Drennan), and “We Are the Church” (Besig).
The Geneva Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir, under the direction of Eileen O’Hern, and with accompanist Charlotte Hsieh, performed the beautiful “Spiritus Sanctus” (Thomas Grassi), an ethereal setting of a devout traditional Puritan prayer followed by the spirited “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?” (Arranged by Moses Hogan.)
The Lutheran Church of the Cross Chancel Choir, directed and accompanied by Pauline Lamoureux, performed “We need You Lord” (Mary McDonald), a fervent musical prayer that sets the tone for a meaningful worship experience. The lyrics plea for God to be present in our midst and to change our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
St. Nicholas Catholic Church, hosting the event, presented two choirs. First was the St. Nicholas Parish Choir, under the direction of Emett Loera, director of Music Ministry, accompanied by Juanita Tsu and the Plaza Strings. The choir performed “Sing Unto God” (G.F. Handel). One of Handel’s most famous oratorios, a jubilant chorus from “Judas Maccabaeus.”
The St Nicholas Chorale under the direction of Mary Ester Blakley, accompanied by Emett Loera and the Plaza Strings, performed “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” (Mack Wilberg), a gentle arrangement of the well-known Irish tune and Henry Baker text in which solo lines and expressive harmonies combine to create a delicate and very lovely setting.
The final Choir to perform was the Laguna Hills Korean United Methodist Church choir, under the direction of Helen Chon, Conductor and En A Kim, accompanist. This wonderful choir held the audience spellbound as they performed “A Psalm of Assurance” (Eugene Butler), a rhythmic setting of Psalm 20.
The program closed with the combined choirs and guests joining once again in singing a rousing rendition of “When in Our Music God is Glorified,” by Charles Villiers Stanford. “When in Our Music” is said to be the only hymn text in Christendom that explains the reasons for church music while simultaneously offering “alleluias” to God. The various stanzas deal with our humility in performance, the aesthetics of musical worship, and the history of church music. The final two stanzas present a biblical model and quote Psalm 150. The song ended to a thunderous applause from all in attendance. A reception in the Church’s Sporrer Hall followed the program. It was a fitting ending to the wonderful afternoon as performers and guests representing the sharing religions enjoyed their friendship and commonness in their music and love of God.