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Ancient music celebrates ancient faiths

By Frank Flegel

05/13/2015

REGINA — The voices were modern but the music was ancient as voices of three Abrahamic faiths — Christian, Islamic and Jewish — performed ancient chants still used in modern churches.

The venue for the April 23 concert was First Presbyterian Church, noted for its acoustics, for this first-time performance of ancient music of ancient faiths.

“I was interested in comparing Gregorian chant with other faith traditions,” said Valerie Hall, organist and director of music at Holy Rosary Cathedral. Hall also directs Schola, an a cappella group from Campion College, and Schola was featured in the concert.

She’d heard that Islamic students at the University of Regina had held a workshop to promote understanding of their faith. “So I started thinking about inviting other faith groups as a means of promoting peace among the faiths and understanding and an opportunity to sing together in a sacred place.”

The concert opened with Yasir Aljohani of the Islamic Temple chanting Athan, the Islamic call to prayer from the choir loft. He was followed by Schola chanting Ubi Caritas et, amor, Deus ibi est followed by two motets from England and two from Russia.

Miriam Friedman of Beth Jacob Synagogue in front of the steps to the sanctuary led a group of four women, one in wheelchair, chanting in Hebrew several pieces used in liturgies, another performed in Aramaic, one used only at Rosh Hashanah, the High Holy Days and another used at funerals.

Daniel Malone, a member of Schola, chanted from the choir loft the Exsultet used in Roman Catholic Easter Vigil services. The men of Schola then performed, also from the choir loft, Salve Regina followed by the ladies of Schola standing in the sanctuary chanting the Marian Motets Salve Virgo Virginium and Rachmaninoff’s version of the Ave Maria.

Yars Lozowchuk and Vera Feduschak in front of the sanctuary performed several Ukrainian chants used in the mass and other Orthodox liturgies, including one used at funerals.

With all members of Schola present in the sanctuary Te Lucis ante Terminum and Salve Nos, Domino, a motet for the service of Compline were performed. Compline is the final church service of the day in the Christian tradition of the Canonical Hours.

Concert goers were greeted with This is the Day Which the Lord Hath Made, a 17th century hymn by an anonymous composer as they took their seats. Rev. Dr. Sami Helewa, SJ, assistant professor of Religious Studies, Campion College offered opening and closing remarks: “Music evokes in us the movement of the hearts that is sacred. The sacredness is really the goal when we chant and when we listen to the voice of God that is hidden in the music.”

The concert ended with Schola leading everyone in Dona Nobis Pacem. Grant us Peace.

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