84.6 F
Denver
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeAdventYoung and Old Gather at Cathedral Basilica for Annual Advent Lessons and...

Young and Old Gather at Cathedral Basilica for Annual Advent Lessons and Carols

Choral voices filled the gothic church while the evening sun struck light through stained glass windows. Within the walls of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, more than 300 people gathered Dec. 10 to prepare their hearts for Christmas by listening to Advent Lessons and Carols.

Every year, the Cathedral Basilica hosts a choir to sing carols while volunteers read scripture passages for the audience to meditate on. The choir director, Phil Bordeleau, says that when readings are interwoven into the musical selections, it all “comes to life.”

Bordeleau has been the Master of Sacred Music and organist at the Cathedral Basilica for about 6 years. He organizes an array of concerts throughout the year, manages the cantors, and directs the Cathedral Choir.

“The weaving of scripture and music together, along with the instrumentations I have personally crafted, brings a sense of delight and calm to me, as one revealing an artwork with acclaim,” Bordeleau reflected after the concert.

Father Samuel Morehead, the pastor of the Cathedral Basilica, helps organize the event every year.

“This gathering, which is at once prayer and a concert, aids us in entering spiritually into the true meaning of the Advent season: looking for and hastening the coming of Christ,” said Father Morehead.

The event is one of the most popular at the Cathedral Basilica every year.

- Advertisement -

“One of the highlights for me, personally, was the presence and participation of youth in the service,” Father Morehead reflected. “Eight teenagers from the Cathedral’s monthly youth group volunteered to proclaim the readings that began with the story of mankind’s fall in Garden of Eden and progressed along the way of the ancient prophets, heralding the coming of the Christ.

Lessons and Carols during Advent has become something of a holiday tradition at the Cathedral over the years. (Photo by Kate Quiñones)

“The joyful participation of such young persons gives us all hope that God is working now as ever and that the beauty of our Catholic faith is both being handed on and received,” he added.

The Lessons and Carols service stems from an Anglican tradition called the King’s Service, which is celebrated annually on Christmas Eve.

“The Cathedral Basilica’s service of Lessons and Carols is a borrowing of the best of the Anglican tradition, started in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England,” Father Morehead noted. “Like the Cathedral Basilica, many Catholic churches have adopted the service for a Catholic usage, especially with an Advent theme.”

The Cathedral Basilica’s own Lessons and Carols tradition began in 2015 at the behest of former Cathedral rector and pastor Father Ron Cattany, though Bordeleau was first involved in 2017.

Lessons and Carols is no easy task. Bordeleau begins preparation for the concert every summer by selecting the music based on the chosen readings. The choir starts reviewing pieces in mid-September and begins rehearsing at the Cathedral in November. In addition to practicing the music itself, choir members practice processing and arranging their positions for the performance.

“For some pieces the singers stood among their own section, while other pieces the singers were singing in ‘mixed’ formation; that is, you are surrounded by singers other than your part. This is very important for polyphonic choral works,” Bordeleau explained.

Choral works with polyphony, or “many-voices,” feature more than one independent melody.

“The Cathedral Basilica’s service of Lessons and Carols is a borrowing of the best of the Anglican tradition, started in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England,” Father Morehead noted. “Like the Cathedral Basilica, many Catholic churches have adopted the service for a Catholic usage, especially with an Advent theme.”

This year, Father Morehead and Bordeleau decided to emphasize the Old Testament, so the musical repertoire had several changes.

“The music is, in essence, a response to the readings,” he explained. “I attempt to include a variety of musical selections; polyphonic motets, Choral homophony, hymns, chants, unaccompanied, accompanied with instruments, and a variety of intensity of sounds.”

The service ultimately points to Christ, Father Morehead noted.

“Even as we recall how Jesus came to us in history, taking our flesh and coming to birth at Bethlehem, so also we meditate on how he meets us today in mystery and will come again in glory,” Father Morehead shared. “Amidst all the hustle and bustle of this time of the year, it is good to stop for an hour’s time, be immersed in the full grandeur of the most beautiful church for 1,000 miles, and allow one’s heart [to] soar before the God who loves you.”

The event concluded with the congregation joining the choir in Hark the Harold Angels Sing. Just before the sun set, the crowd spilled out the cathedral doors into the streets of downtown Denver.

Kate Quiñones
Kate Quiñones
Kate Cavanaugh Quiñones is a journalist who has been published by Catholic News Agency, CatholicVote, and the Wall Street Journal. She graduated from Hillsdale College with a B.A. in English.
RELATED ARTICLES

Most Popular