In curating Sacred Song, Josh Stafford to emphasize ‘Love Divine’ in Week 4


As Chautauquans and the Institution’s programs near the middle of the 2022 season, and with three Sacred Song Services under his belt, Josh Stafford still wants to keep things fresh. 

At 8 p.m. Sunday, July 17, in the Amphitheater, Stafford — director of sacred music and the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist — joins the Chautauqua Choir for a Sacred Song Service themed “Love Divine.” Stafford, with organ scholar Nicholas Stigall on the Massey Memorial Organ, will connect the service’s theme to what Fr. Gregory Boyle will be preaching on that morning.

“I thought it would be fun to delve into all the various expressions of God’s love through humanity and choral music and Scripture,” Stafford said. 

Some pieces the audience can look forward to are the recurring piece “Day is Dying in the West,” as well as “Greater Love Hath No Man,’’ by John Ireland. Stafford said Ireland’s composition is “a really wonderful piece of English choral music.”

Georgia Pressley / staff photographer Larry and Sue Gray sing during the Sacred Song Service last Sunday.

While Stafford usually struggles to find pieces to connect to the theme, this time he has struggled with cutting down the amount of pieces he has found to include in the service.

A few other notable pieces in the service are “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” by Rowland Hugh Prichard, and “By Gracious Powers,” from C. Hubert H. Parry.

Stafford said finding his rhythm and groove as the season progresses “has been fun.” His work with the Chautauqua Choir and the Motet Choir is something he said he’s thoroughly enjoyed so far.

“The Motet Choir is doing tremendous work every weekday morning, and the Chautauqua Choir is really sounding great for Sunday morning and evening,” Stafford said. 

He hasn’t formulated specific goals for next season, as everyone is still finding their way in 2022, but Stafford said he’s looking to expand the Chautauqua and Motet choirs and bring in younger members.

Stafford said the formulas for planning the service are typically similar, but he keeps an open mind and avoids burnout by being able to select new themes and material every week.

“I actually had a number of people come up and tell me how much they loved last week’s service,” Stafford said. “Just (Wednesday) morning there was a woman who came up to me after worship and said how moved she was, and that afterwards she just felt the need to sit quietly for 20 minutes and process it all.”

Tags : religionSacred SongSacred Song Service

The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.