Sunday’s Sacred Song Service promises to be both nostalgic and haunting.
“At the end of it, the president gives his annual ‘state of the union’ message of what happened this summer at Chautauqua,” said Jared Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “It’s already dark outside by the time the service starts. The fact that we’re sitting in the dark before we even sing a note is a little bit creepy.”
At 8 p.m. on Sunday in the Amphitheater, Jacobsen, the Chautauqua Choir and Institution President Michael E. Hill will declare that the “Camp Meeting Is Over,” in the last Sacred Song Service of the season. At the end of the service, Hill will draw the 2019 season to a close with the traditional three taps of the gavel.
Jacobsen said he’s drawn on Chautauqua’s history as a “camp by the lake” in seeking inspiration for Sunday’s program.
“There were songs that were specific to each person’s experience at camps, things they learned around the fire, and then they get remembered the next year when they went back,” he said. “One of these is an early American song from the 1800s, called ‘Camp Meeting Is Over.’ So I found an arrangement of that for the Choir.”
An addition to the service this year are readings of past letters to the editor of The Chautauquan Daily, as a way of inspiring whimsy in Jacobsen’s audience.
“I also came across a wonderful piece called ‘I Am in Need of Music,’ by David Brunner, that I did with the kids at my school,” he said. “It’s all about what it’s like to make music, so we’re going to do an anthem-setting of that. The Sacred Song Service is all about making music, and it’s not just the Choir who’s made the music all summer long — it’s the congregation that made this work.”
According to Jacobsen, if it had been the congregation without the Choir or vice versa, it “wouldn’t have been as rich an experience as it is with both.”
“One of the anthems we’ll do is written by a Chautauqua Choir member, Marjorie Thomas,” he said. “I knew her for years on the Choir, and never had a clue that she would have composed anything. I found it in our library and pulled it out, and she was smiling as we played it the first time through with the Choir. She timidly put her hand up and said, ‘I wrote this. I never thought I’d hear it again.’ ”
Jacobsen said “that’s part of what the closing week has to be about — remembering things, and celebrating our own innate gifts here.”