Regardless of how long they’re staying on the grounds, many people have described Chautauqua as a “home away from home,” or “heaven on Earth.” Josh Stafford, director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, wants to emphasize this feeling of coming home during the Sacred Song Service at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 31 in the Amphitheater.
The theme for the service is “Going Home: A Service of Remembrance,” and Stafford said he wants to continue the more than decade-long tradition of having one of the summer’s services be a time of remembrance for lost loved ones. He said for Sunday he’s “focusing on this idea of heaven as home.”
A piece he’s looking forward to highlighting in the service is “Geistliches Lied,” by Johannes Brahms, a German requiem he has turned into an anthem.
“It’s really beautiful, and people will connect both musically and spiritually,” Stafford said. “It’s an interesting piece, because it doesn’t use the traditional Catholic requiem Mass text.”
Other pieces included in the service are “God Weeps with Us Who Weep and Mourn,” by Sally Ann Morris, as well as “When Memory Fades,” by Jean Sibelius.
Also included in the service is Brahms’ anthem, “Ein Deutsches Requiem,” during which the audience will be invited up to the skirt of the stage to write down loved ones they have lost in memory books that are kept throughout the year in Chautauqua’s denominational houses.
As the season is nearing the last few weeks, Stafford looks forward to the next few services, as well as beginning to plan for next season.
“(I’m) trying to figure out how we can grow and expand the Chautauqua Choir (and) starting to contemplate how we put the Motet Choir together for next season, getting all of our personnel together,” Stafford said.
For now, the feeling of playing “Largo” on the Massey Memorial Organ is something every musician should experience, he said, and every Chautauquan should hear, at least once.
And last Sunday’s service was the first time since Stafford became the organist where he wasn’t the one playing “Largo” during the service. As the service was combined with the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Class of 2022 Vigil, he handed this duty to organ scholar Nicholas Stigall.
“It looked beautiful as people were exiting the Amp with their torches during ‘Largo,’ ” Stafford said. “It was really nice to be able to collaborate with the CLSC and honor all of the work they do.”