Launched in 1996 and running alternate years since, this year’s Liturgical Arts Festival of Springfield is set to present several days of events at multiple venues around town, all centered around themes of the sacred as experienced in the traditions of various faiths.
“Our purpose is to bring together art and music and various media that showcase the sacred arts and how individual people in different faiths reach for the transcendent,” said Susan Carr Shelton, a member of the festival’s board. “We are taking a look at music, art, artifacts, architecture and textiles over the years – all the areas where people use their imaginations to reach the divine.”
This year’s festival kicks of at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 27, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church with a performance by the Sangamon Valley Civic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Matthew Shepherd. “They were in the festival two years ago and were a very big hit,” said Royce Hubert, vice president of programs for the festival. The program will include pieces by Verdi, Mozart, Edward Elgar, Leonard Bernstein, Mendelssohn and J.S. Bach. “There will be some sacred pieces, plus some things that are maybe less sacred but still of interest,” said Hubert. “It is a wonderful way to open, with beautiful orchestra and choral music.”
On Saturday from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. the “Liturgical and Sacred Art” exhibit opens at the Springfield Art Association’s M.G. Nelson Gallery, consisting of work by visual artists from the Springfield community in a juried exhibit, with prizes forthcoming for best in show and two runners up. This exhibit will remain on display through May 26 but the organizers note that complimentary snacks and drinks will only be served at this weekend’s opening.
A panel of experts will participate in “Sacred Spaces: Exploring Sacred Architecture” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 30, at Temple B’rith Sholom, 1004 S. Fourth St., for a discussion of the design, restoration, and preservation of architecture and space, moderated by Martin Woulfe, minister at Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Church. Allen Cherrick will speak about the temple’s architecture; Father Jim Isaacson, a Catholic priest from Chicago, will discuss restorations he is working on for Sacred Heart church. Harish Bhatt, will make a presentation touching on Hindu architecture in general along with details about the new Hindu temple in Chatham; Tarfa Khan will discuss Islamic architecture; and Joel Horwedel, executive director for Lincoln Memorial Garden, will speak about the garden’s meditative space designed by Jens Jensen.
The festival continues on Tuesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. with an organ recital entitled “New Pipes/New Sounds” featuring virtuoso soloist Dan Miller, who will be performing on the newly acquired Reuter organ at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The program will include a medley of international hymns from the Hebrew, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Jamaican, Hawaiian, Korean and Zulu traditions along with work by composers ranging from Bach to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Wednesday, May 2, brings two back-to-back festival events, both to be held in the choir room of Westminster Presbyterian, 533 S. Walnut St. At 6 p.m., Springfield Poets and Writers will present “A Pilgrimage across the World’s Sacred Verse” featuring the group of local scribes reading poems highlighting sacred topics. Then at 7:30, the “Chants and Dance” program will feature chants from Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Islamic faiths, with certain songs to be accompanied by dance. The program will conclude with a rendition of “One Voice,” composed by Barry Manilow as the closing theme for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
The festival concludes at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, at Central Baptist Church, when the Springfield Choral Society will perform “Hidden Hymns and Heavenly Psalms,” including three hymns by Mozart as well as Handel’s “Psalm 110.” Tickets are $15 each for this event only (all other festival events are free to the public). Parking is being made available at the INB garage across the street.
“One thing people forget, maybe because they are so focused on politics, is what a great community of creative people we have here in Springfield,” said Shelton. “Not only do we have beautiful venues to select from, we have very talented people here as well.”
“Despite our different backgrounds and faith traditions, it is delightful to work with people who are so committed to the arts,” said Hubert. “Pulling this all together takes some doing, which is why we only do it every other year.”
Scott Faingold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.