Broadway goes to church!

The anthems for this Sunday’s choices all come from Broadway musicals. Way back in June when I was first trying to brainstorm about this coming program year, I was listening to the music from Sister Act. All of music from the movies and the musical really are some of my favorites and I started considering all the possibilities. Obviously, I have left out a couple of big God-themed shows (specifically Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar), but, in my defense, everyone knows them and I wanted to include at least one piece that I feel everyone should hear even though the musical has fallen out of favor. That led to a 3-month long search for “Walk him up!” from Purlie. I remember first hearing this music as a 11-year-old kid at the Broadway review at King’s Island in 1970. I was obsessed by it and finally got to see parts of it on the Tony awards. That piece stuck with me and I used it in my very first choral competition as a conductor while a senior in college. I was lucky that the dean of the fine arts school and the person who had a lot to do with the way I “turned out” was willing to arrange the piece. This arrangement is what you hear today. Now in his late eighties and suffering from “forgetfulness,” I am eternally grateful for his guidance, his advice, and his teaching. So, enjoy the music today! I will be looking out for more interesting choices for next year!

Mark Crayton

Offertory Anthem: “Hail, Holy Queen” (from Sister Act) Menken and Slater

I am stretching it a bit here. This is actually from the movie musical comedy Sister Act and did not make it to the Broadway show when it was created after the movies (although many wonderful pieces did). I couldn’t resist!

The film opens in 1968 at St. Anne's Academy, a California Roman Catholic school, where a young girl named Deloris Wilson is scolded by Sister Immaculata for wisecracking and disobedience. The setting then changes to the present day, where Deloris (now going by the surname Van Cartier) is a lounge singer in a 1960s-themed act called The Ronelles (a parody of The Ronettes), who sing at The Moonlite Lounge of the Nevada Club in Reno, Nevada, run by her boyfriend, the mobster Vince LaRocca. After Deloris walks in on Vince having his chauffeur Ernie executed for betrayal, Vince orders his two henchmen Joey and Willy to kill her as well. Deloris flees Vince's casino to the local police station where Lieutenant Eddie Souther suggests she testify against Vince if he can be arrested and tried, but for now, she should go into witness protection until the time comes. Deloris is taken to St. Katherine's Parish in a seedy, run-down neighborhood of San Francisco, where Souther suggests she take refuge in the attached convent. Both Deloris and the stoic Reverend Mother object, but are convinced by Souther and Monsignor Bishop O'Hara to go ahead with it. Deloris 'becomes' a nun – habit and all – under the hand of Reverend Mother, who gives her the religious name 'Sister Mary Clarence' to complete the disguise. Mary Clarence objects to following the strictures and simple life of the convent, but comes to befriend several of the nuns, including the forever jolly Sister Mary Patrick, quiet and meek Sister Mary Robert, and the elderly deadpan Sister Mary Lazarus, who is also the choir director. After sneaking into a nearby bar, Mary Clarence is chastised by Reverend Mother and put into the choir, which she has seen to be dreadful. The choir nuns, learning that Mary Clarence has a background in music, elect her to take over as choir director, which she accepts, and she rearranges them to make them better singers. At Mass one Sunday, the choir sings the "Hail Holy Queen" in the traditional manner beautifully before shifting into a gospel and rock-and-roll-infused performance of the hymn. Reverend Mother is infuriated with Mary Clarence about the performance, and orders that Mary Lazarus once again become the director of the choir, but Monsignor O'Hara is thrilled with the performance as the unorthodox music brought people, including teenagers, in off the streets.

(Sources given upon request)

Sermon Anthem: “Walk him up the stairs” (from Purlie) Geld and Udell, arr. Dr. Jack Eaton

Purlie is set in an era when Jim Crow laws still were in effect in the American South. Its focus is on the dynamic, traveling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson, who returns to his small Georgia town hoping to save Big Bethel, the community's church, and emancipate the cotton pickers who work on oppressive Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee's plantation. With the assistance of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins, Purlie hopes to pry loose from Cotchipee an inheritance due his long-lost cousin and use the money to achieve his goals. Also playing a part in Purlie's plans is Cotchipee's son Charlie, who ultimately proves to be far more fair-minded than his Simon Legree-like father and who saves the church from destruction with an act of defiance that has dire consequences for the tyrannical Cap'n.

So, the musical open with the funeral of Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee. His glorious funeral shakes the halls of Big Bethel, the church he sought to destroy. Purlie Victorious, in his first service leads the singing praising life rather than the uncertainties of life in the hereafter.

(Sources given upon request)

Sermon Anthem: “Sabbath Prayer” (from Fiddler on the Roof) Bock and Harnick

Winner of nine Tony Awards when it debuted in 1964, Fiddler on the Roof is the brainchild of Broadway legends, Jerome Robbins and Harold Prince; songwriters, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick; and bookwriter, Joseph Stein. Touching audiences worldwide with its humor, warmth and honesty, this universal show is a staple of the musical theatre canon.

Set in the little village of Anatevka, the story centers on Tevye, a poor milkman, and his five daughters. With the help of a colorful and tight-knit Jewish community, Tevye tries to protect his daughters and instill them with traditional values in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia. Rich in historical and ethnic detail, Fiddler on the Roof's universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality, and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness.

A group of villagers, including an outsider, Perchik, approaches Tevye with news of a violent pogrom in a nearby village. Tevye invites Perchik, a young revolutionary student, to come to his home for Sabbath dinner and arranges for him to instruct his daughters. Motel, the tailor, attempts to ask Tevye for Tzeitel's hand, but gets tongue-tied. The family and their guests welcome the Sabbath with "Sabbath Prayer." accessed 21 October 2017

The hymns today were chosen for their Broadway-esque flair. The hymn “Nearer my God to Thee” is reported to have been sung as the Titanic sank. The musical Titanic references this but chooses a livelier hymn to not have a sense of panic or doom among the passengers. There are varying tales taken from survivors about whether or not the hymn was actually used but with each movie made using this hymn it has become legend.

I hope you enjoyed today. Please join us next week for the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day (a Protestant Christian religious holiday celebrated on October 31, alongside All Hallows' Eve (Halloween) during the triduum of Allhallowtide, in remembrance of the onset of the Reformation).

More upcoming musical events are listed on our webpage and are available in print outs at the back of the church!

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