Cathedral offers ‘lessons and carols’
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Advent and Christmas are supposed to be peaceful, prayerful times to celebrate the Savior.
There are times, however, when you want to unleash your inner Charlie Brown and scream at the top of your lungs:
“Isn’t there ANYONE who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Glad you asked.
Decompress, unstress and ditch the frenzied, commercialized Christmas scene by attending the “St. Nicholas Festival of Lessons and Carols” and Christmas crèche display on Dec. 5 at the Cathedral of St. Peter, 409 N. 15th St., in Kansas City, Kansas.
The evening will begin with a display of Christmas crèches in the parish center at 6 p.m., followed by the lessons and carols at 7:15 p.m. performed by the polyphonic choir Sursum Corda, led by director and organist Kevin Vogt.
All are welcome to this free event. The musical portion will last about an hour. Ample parking is available.
The St. Nicholas Festival of Lessons and Carols is sponsored by the Catholic Fine Arts Council of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas and hosted by the Cathedral of St. Peter Parish.
“The words ‘Sursum Corda’ actually come from the Mass,” said Vogt, director of sacred liturgy music and art at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood. “It’s Latin for ‘Lift up your hearts.’”
Polyphonic means, literally, “many voices.” Polyphonic music is produced by each vocalist singing a different melody simultaneously. This technique, which developed in European Christianity more than 1,000 years ago, produces beautiful, otherworldly sounds.
The modern format of the Festival of Lessons and Carols was developed in the Anglican Church in the 1880s, but its roots reach far back, said Vogt.
“The format of a service using Scripture readings and carols has its origins in medieval times, before the Reformation, when the night office of matins was prayed and Christmas carols were substituted for the psalms,” he said.
This year the program will feature four readings and seven pieces of music. Some music will be just for the choir, and other music will be for the audience and the choir.
The four readings will be “The Legend of St. Nicholas,” from a Greek author in the 9th century; a reading of “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry; “The Journey of the Magi,” by T.S. Eliot; and the opening of the Gospel of John.
This is the second year for the event, said Father Harry Schneider, cathedral rector. Originally, it was associated with the Crosier Society, but this year has been opened to everyone.
“Last August, the Catholic Fine Arts Council had a meeting, and there was a discussion about this,” said Father Schneider, also a council member. “I said if we’re looking at early December, what about as a theme tying it into the feast of St. Nicholas?”
“Speaking for myself, as a German-American, I look forward to St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) as much as Christmas,” he continued.
Father Schneider expects there will be at least 100 Christmas crèches on display.
“Everyone is invited,” said Father Schneider. “This is a beautiful opportunity for spiritual preparation for Christmas.”