As the sun sets and the final strains of the Massey Memorial Organ fade, President Michael E. Hill will tap the ceremonial gavel three times on Sunday night.
But before that decisive act closes Chautauqua Institution’s 2017 season, Chautauquans will be able to come together to savor the memories made over the summer. Starting at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater, Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, will lead the congregation in singing and reciting texts that honor the Chautauqua experience.
“This is a living entity for everybody who comes here,” Jacobsen said. “And now it’s going away, hopefully just for a while, but you never know what’s going to happen in the next 10 months.”
Although this is the closing of Jacobsen’s 63rd season, he said he still deeply feels the grief of saying goodbye. He said it is hard to process everything that happens in the span of nine weeks because it is so intense. While Chautauquans are catching their breath, they are also not ready for the season to be over.
This is why the final Sacred Song Service is focused on reflecting about the season, Jacobsen said.
“It’s important to help people understand that it’s over,” Jacobsen said. “It’s loaded with baggage, this closing night.”
To help offset the sadness, Jacobsen has chosen mostly upbeat songs, including the primary hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” by Henry van Dyke. He said it starts out serious, but then “just cuts loose in ways only gospel choirs can do it.”
The hymn is set to the melody of “Ode to Joy” arranged by Ludwig van Beethoven. Jacobsen said “Ode to Joy” is about the triumph of the human spirit, which is also what Chautauqua celebrates.
Jacobsen was adamant that the service is not necessarily a goodbye to the Chautauqua experience. In fact, the final song that Chautauquans will sing after the Three Taps is “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” Instead of a goodbye, the service is a “see you later” because Chautauqua never really leaves a person.
“So even if it’s 25 years before you come back, or even if you never can come back, it’s in there,” Jacobsen said.