St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church will hold its second annual Advent Hymn Festival on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.
“Hymn festivals are opportunities to tap into the deep storehouse of Christian hymnody,” intern Cantor Nathan Grime ‘20 said. “There are a lot of Lutherans who have written hymns in the last 500 years that our church has really loved.”
The festival will feature adult and youth choirs, handbells, brass, strings, and other sacred music. Grime is in charge of the music for the event.
“We’ve been planning this for about a month,” he said. “In October we started talking about it. Last year was the first time. We’re doing it this year to keep that tradition, hoping to make it a yearly thing.”
The festival last year went well, according to Grime.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “St. Paul’s had never done a hymn festival service before. I’ve only been the organist there for three years, so it was new for me to do something like that, new for them. We didn’t do anything super complicated or special music-wise.”
This year, Grime said he hopes to be a little bit more ambitious with the music, but still conscious of the purpose of the event.
“This year what we’ve got planned is something a little more difficult. Music is a little more involved,” he said. “It’s a service for the congregation, not a concert or performance. You want it to be for the benefit of folks who are going to attend. You can’t think only of your choir, but also how the music will be musically and spiritually beneficial and enhancing for people walking into the service.”
The service will include preaching, reading passages of Scripture, and then singing hymns that have to do with that passage.
“It provides a really nice opportunity to mark the season of Advent with hymns, holy scripture, and prayer. It helps us understand the theme of Advent as a distinct season from Christmas,” associate pastor Sean Willman said. “We sing lots of Christmas hymns throughout the season of Christmas, but oftentimes Advent gets a little bit of a short shrift.”
Willman went on to say that the festival is also meant to be a reflective time during the season.
“During the two penitential seasons of the year, Advent and Lent, the church sets aside more time to reflect on the gifts of Christ, especially how Christ comes to us in Advent,” Willman said. “This is another way to distinctly highlight what’s going on and why we’re doing it.”
St. Paul’s member Robin Bertram went to the festival last year and said she enjoyed the atmosphere that was created.
“It was a nice, quiet, calm evening, in a way that I don’t usually get to see our church,” she said. “The time of day, the event, the production of it. The lighting of the church was all muted and it set the mood for the whole evening. It was a nice kickoff to the season.”
This will be the first musical event for the church since COVID-19, and Grime said he is looking forward to being together again.
“I’m looking forward to doing something as a church musically and in the context of a church service for the first time in a long time,” he said. “Usually as a church, we would get choirs and instrumentalists for something like Easter. It’s really been almost a year since people have been able to sing in a choir. I’m looking forward to being able to do that again.”
The festival is open to all. Ultimately, the event is meant “to sing some Advent hymns and be reminded of the presence of our Jesus, Christ Lord,” Willman said.
Bertram said the singing of hymns will be her favorite part.
“I love hearing the music in all the different ways,” Bertram said. “Whether it’s the children singing mildly off-key or having everybody sing the same songs that are known by all generations with the memories each of us has attached to those songs.”