‘Terra Beata’ Sacred Song Service to Highlight Earth’s Beauty

Chautauqua Organist and Coordinator of Worship and Sacred Music Jared Jacobsen leads the Chautauqua Choir for this week’s sacred song, themed “American Voices,” on Sunday, June 30, 2019. ALEXANDER WADLEY/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

During a phone call a few months ago with the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and senior pastor, Jared Jacobsen found the answer to a problem.

“I don’t exactly know what to do,” Jacobsen told Robinson. “Most of the platform themes for this summer don’t lend themselves to religious themes.

Robinson suggested he find a way to incorporate Week Three’s “A Planet In Balance: A Week in Partnership with National Geographic Society” into one of his Sacred Song Services, perhaps through the hymn tune “Terra Beata.”

That was all he needed to say.

At 8 p.m. Sunday, July 7 in the Amphitheater, Jacobsen — Chautauqua Institution’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music — will present the Sacred Song Service “Terra Beata,” which means “blessed Earth” in Latin.

“Terra Beata” is a tune by Christian hymn composer Franklin L. Sheppard that was adapted from the poem “This Is My Father’s World” by American writer and clergyman Maltbie Davenport Babcock.

“(The program) is going in a couple different directions, just to celebrate the magic of God’s creation,” Jacobsen said. “And if you need that, there’s no better place to go than St. Francis of Assisi.”

Part of the setlist for the service will be Assisi’s hymn text “All Creatures, Worship God Most High.”

It’s seven verses of nature imagery and the bounty of nature,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen said Francis was wealthy as a child, and that his father was a cloth merchant and weaver.

“Francis gave up all his wealth when he was a teenager and took a vow of poverty, much to the horror of his parents,” Jacobsen said. “So our image of St. Francis — in the brown robes with bare feet, with a bird on his shoulder and cradling a lamb — that was his real world. And with his father’s blessing, he eventually liquidated his inheritance and gave it away to people that needed it.”

Chautauqua’s wealth of home gardens, many of which have statues of St. Francis, make it the ideal place to celebrate Francis’ hymn, according to Jacobsen.

“The Seal Lullaby,” with words by English poet Rudyard Kipling and music by American composer Eric Whitacre, will also be featured.

“It sort of hit the choral music world by storm when it premiered about 10 years ago,” Jacobsen said. “It’s so tender. It’s not an overtly religious text, but it’s in reverence to the life of this mother to her child.”

According to Jacobsen, while this Sacred Song Service is more secular than his typical program, it will be more accessible because of it.

You don’t have to be of any particular faith tradition to understand that when you’re walking around in a place like (Chautauqua), nature is gracing you at every turn,” he said.
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The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.