By LINDA M. LINONIS
Prepare to pray through song at the Festivals of Lessons and Carols planned Sunday at Christ Episcopal Church.
Participants will be inspired and uplifted by the musical program to be presented by the church choirs from St. James Episcopal in Boardman; St. John’s Episcopal in Sharon, Pa.; St. John’s Episcopal in Youngstown; and the host, Christ Episcopal.
Gary P. Richards, organist and director of music at Christ Episcopal, organized the program. “I hope the program lifts up people spiritually and begins their Christmas,” he said.
He served from 1982 to 2003 at Christ Episcopal as music director and was there when the magnificent Casavant Freres pipe organ was installed during the 1980s. Some of the impressive pipes, the trompette en chamade, overlook the entrance to the sanctuary and other pipes can be seen in front of the church.
“The organ adds a great sense of warmth to worship and a wonderful sound,” he said.
Richards filled in at various churches. “I substituted at churches and got to know the priests and people,” he said. He had the opportunity to return to Christ Episcopal in October of this year.
Richards said he just thought “it would be nice” to put together a combined Christmas program. The choirs have been rehearsing at their respective churches. He noted there should be about 35 to 40 voices joining together.
The music director said he sees this program as a “rebirth of traditional lessons and carols.” Music will be interspersed with Scripture lessons from creation to the birth of Jesus.
The choirs will sing such selections as “Snow Lay on the Ground,” “Dig, Dong, Merrily,” “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent” and “Love Came Down at Christmas.” Those attending will participate in “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “Little Town of Bethlehem” and other traditional carols.
Richards, who began his affiliation with church music when he was 16 years old, is now 70. Now retired, he was a junior high vocal music teacher from 1967 to ’97 in the Newton Falls School District,
He said he liked liturgical music for its “formality.” “You know what to expect. It’s not a mish-mash but has order and purpose,” he said.
Though people like to listen to choirs whose voices soar, that inspiration puts them in a singing mood. “It’s a good way to be involved,” Richards said of participation in a service.