As a Jew, you might wonder why I spend so much time in Church. Sure, I belong to a Temple and enjoy spending time there, especially for the community, but it doesn’t compare with the splendor and glory of some of the great churches around the world – many of which open their doors to the public for events of all varieties.
Most recently, I spent a long weekend in Montreal, and was introduced to two Churches. First, Notre-Dame Basilica has a light show that outdoes anything I have ever seen. Using the architecture of the church, the laser light show designers outdid themselves using the space to emulate nature in all its glory. Wind storms, waves, the change of seasons and a lovely sunrise, to name a few.
And second, we visited Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal which has its own 50+ boys choir every Sunday. We sat through the entire Catholic mass – in Latin and French - just to hear those boys sing. Truly angelic.
Last summer, I visited St. Marks Basilica in Venice, Italy, where Giovanni Gabrieli was Organist and Music Director for over 20 years in the early 1600's. All of his antiphonal music is written for that space and it was rather amazing to finally hear antiphonal music in there. (You can learn more about this visit here)
This June, for the second time, I attended Paul Winter’s Summer Solstice concert at St. John The Divine in New York City. It’s a cathedral that can seat over 6,000 people and the acoustic is so perfect that the group doesn’t need amplification to be heard throughout the venue. The organ is used in a way that I have never heard before. It surrounds and grabs you, shaking you furiously until it finally lets go – in all the best ways. I found myself in tears last year during the concert.
Closest to home, I have spent quite a bit of time at Old South Church in Copley Square over the past 25 years. I’ve lost count how many times I have performed in that space. Brass concerts with the Old South Brass and the Boston Conservatory Brass Ensemble, as well as chamber and full orchestra concerts with Symphony Nova. Symphony Nova’s office was even at the Church.
So, really, it appears that Churches are doing the same thing that Classical music as a whole is doing; adjusting to the changes in the world so that they can continue to survive. By becoming concert halls, in addition to places of worship, they can fill their spaces many more days than just Sunday and entertain an even more diverse audience of every creed and color. It’s a gift that they share with the world and it is always worth the trip. See you there!