Over and over again, one hears that “what brought me to St. Paul’s was the music,” or “that liturgy,” referring to the liturgy fully sung by presider, choir, and congregation, for this is who we are as a people.
The St. Paul’s Parish Choir, which sings at the 10:45 mass, is known for the beauty of its tone, its pure intonation, and the subtle musicianship of its unaccompanied singing. Its repertoire ranges from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, emphasizing renaissance motets, composers of our own time (such as Arvo Pärt and John Tavener), and the music of the quintessential Anglo-Catholic composer Healey Willan. The Parish Choir sings every Sunday from September through June and rehearses weekly.
The 8:30 mass features a smaller choir. Its repertoire includes accompanied and unaccompanied music from the Anglican tradition, shape note hymns, Celtic music, and music drawn from other sources. The this choir sings three consecutive Sundays followed by two Sundays off in a five-week cycle. This group rehearses once every five weeks.
Additional ensembles sing on an occasional basis and provide singing opportunities for parishioners who are unable to commit to an ongoing rehearsal schedule. The Women’s Chant Choir, the Men’s Plainsong Choir, the Women’s Choir, and the Shape Note Singers are groups that sing a few times during the year.
The largest choir in St. Paul’s parish, and the most important, is the congregation itself. The level of congregational singing of hymns, psalms, and responses is impressive. One of the joys of many a liturgy is to be singing a hymn and have the organ drop away, leaving the entire congregation singing in remarkable four-part harmony. These occasions expose the beauty, intimacy, and often lump-in-the-throat poignancy of singing together to the Creator with our very human voices. We are a singing community, and music is one of our most bountiful gifts to all who enter.
Click here to hear some samples of music played on our organ and sung by our choir.
– Gary James, Organist/Choirmaster
Gary James has served as organist/choirmaster at St. Paul’s since 1997. After graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley, he was Composer-in-Residence at Linfield College in Oregon. He is a recipient of the Nicola de Lorenzo Prize and the ASCAP Raymond Hubble Award, and his compositions are published by ten publishers. His music has been performed throughout North America and in Europe, Asia, and Australia; including regional, national, and international gatherings of the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society, the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, and the American Society of University Composers. His music was sung at both the opening and closing Eucharists of the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City in 2015, and at the installation of the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on All Saints Day 2015.