Late Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2013.
Punctual at 4:00 p.m. we arrive at St. Colman Catholic Church on South North Street, Washington Court House. The parish of St. Colman is in Fayette County, an easy drive from Bexley. Our neighbors, Janet and Fred, have volunteered to drive in their new car.
Our mutual expedition is to listen to a church choir and a new organ.
The Reverend Father James H. Hatfield III is pastor for an evening vespers service and dedication of the new organ for the St. Colman Parish.
The church’s director of liturgical music and organist for the evening is Craig Jaynes. Our neighbors, my wife and I know Craig as a landscape designer, nurseryman and proprietor of Country English Gardens. Craig also earns his living as a registered nurse at Wilmington Community Care Hospice.
The St. Colman choir of twenty-five was led by Craig.
Craig is indefatigable.
Is it sensible to visit a rural Midwestern town in search of musical beauty? Our expectations for the evening are elevated because we know of Craig’s commitment to excellence, his discipline and the beauty that his skills can create.
The organ we have come to hear is the design of Jamestown Organ Works. The instrument’s voices are the responsibility of Walker Technical Company and the console was constructed by R.A. Colby.
To introduce the new instrument to the parish and guests, a diverse selection of sacred music, both instrumental and choral, was performed as part of the prayers and liturgy of the Sunday evening vespers.
The selection of music was sophisticated and would test an ordinary choir and organist. I also anticipated hearing the performance of those pieces that were new to me.
The prelude was based on “Iam sol recedit igneus” and for the vespers service the lyrics were perfectly descriptive of the setting sun as the service began a few minutes after 4:00 p.m.
“O Trinity of blessed light, O unity of princely might, The fiery sun now goes his way: Shed thou within our hearts thy ray. To thee our morning song of praise, To thee our evening prayer we raise.”
The prelude was composed by Bruce Simonds (1895-1989), a Yale university professor. The music is based on the Sarum plainsong tune attributed to St. Ambrose.
The beauty of the voices of the choir and the voices of the new organ was apparent from the start of the service with the Prelude “Iam sol recedit igneus” and the Psalmody. Psalm 98, Cantate Domino Psalm 92 Bonum est confitieri
The performance of the music was skillful. When the hymns were performed it was also obvious that the parish has skillful singers in the congregation. The voices of the choir and organ in the balcony, and the voices of the congregation below filled the sanctuary with the sounds of joyful singing.
In addition to the beauty of the choir’s presentation, the physical strength of the choir and its director was noteworthy. These musicians prepared and performed thirteen pieces including the hymns. Quite a task that few ordinary choirs could sustain.
Two pieces that are new to me were by Herbert Sumsion. The Gospel canticle was Sumsion’s Magnificat in G and the Meditation was his Nunc Dimittis in G.
The range of selections included one Latin lyric: Tantum Ergo.
Tantum ergo Sacrementum Veneremur cernui: Et antiquum documentum Novo cedat retui
Translated: Therefore we before him bending, this great sacrament revere, Types and Shadows have their ending, for the newer rite is here.
This lyric was sung during the moments when dusk had waned and the shadows from the setting sun disappeared.
The vespers and dedication were attended by fifty-five people in addition to Father Hatfield, alter boys and choir director.
Father Hatfield noted that there were a number of guests who were visitors and thanked them for participating in the service and dedication.
After the service, the Women of St. Colman served cookies, cheeses and cut fruit in the Parish Hall.
The parish is named for St. Colman of Cloyne born in Munster, Ireland. He was a poet and later, the royal bard at Cashel. He is among the first to write poetry in the vernacular. He was baptized by St. Brendan when he was fifty years old and also given the name Colman. He was ordained and and is reputed to have been St. Columba's teacher. He was the first Bishop of Cloyne in eastern Cork.