Joyous Epiphany ends Christmas season
Presentation of the boar's head represents the triumph of Christ over Satan.
T HE 44th ANNUAL BOAR'S Head and Yule Log Festival at St. John's Episcopal Church in Youngstown began and ended on a solemn note, but in between, there was fun, singing and festivity.
Hundreds of musicians, costumed cast and audience members joined to celebrate The Feast of The Epiphany in this 14th-century liturgical drama.
The musical styles were equally varied. The program began formally, with the St. John's Choir, accompanied by director Dr. Richard Konzen on the church's Schlicker pipe organ and featuring solo soprano Patricia Boehm.
The Shenango Valley Chorale Madrigal Singers made the mood more jovial, as they entered bedecked in full medieval costumes of lace, velvet and brocades, plus one very tall feather-in-a-cap.
Boar's Head festivals are said to have had their start at Queen's College, Oxford. In the spirit of the Epiphany, they mark the end of the Christmas season, and presentation of the boar's head represents the triumph of Christ over Satan.
The processional at the heart of the celebration began with red-suited Beefeaters accompanied by the Brier Hill Pipes and Drums.
Rev. John S. Horner, rector of St. John's, reminded everyone that the evening was meant to be a joyful, hand-clapping celebration, and he invited the audience to participate. A little girl then skipped up the aisle, ringing bells, the candles were lighted, and the pageantry began.
As the combined choirs, brass and percussion and organ began the boar's head fanfare, the herald entered, played by Daniel Byerly, who then sang the boar's head carol, followed by a procession of the townspeople.
First they came bearing the boar's head and puddings, then came bakers carrying baskets, lords and ladies wearing rich purples and blacks and maroon velvet, bejeweled and glistening. This was followed by a procession of holy people, nuns, and hunters bearing bows and arrows, with a very well-behaved dog. Children in green who looked like little elves with bells in their caps entered next as the procession made its way to the altar.
The emphasis was on fun as the church youth group girls acted out the Twelve Days of Christmas. Each girl creatively mimed her part, but the tall "golden ring" stole the attention for every verse. As they exited, they passed out candy to the audience.
The mood shifted from secular to sacred, as the three Wise Men entered, bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh in costumes of gold and green satins and purple velvet.
The cast and musicians came together at the altar to sing "In The Bleak Midwinter" and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence."
The celebration ended as audience and performers joined in singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."
As the procession left the altar, all became solemn once again as the candles were extinguished. The little girl with the bells carrying a candle took the hand of the rector, and they both skipped down the aisle, "taking the light out into the world."