AGO Convocation: A Light to Lighten the Nations

Members and friends of the Grand Strand Chapter gathered at the Church of the Resurrection, Surfside Beach on January 15 for a winter convocation and choral festival.  The theme of the service, which took place on the second Sunday after the Epiphany, was “A Light to Lighten the Nations.”

The Trinity Choir sings at the convocation

Participating choirs included:

Surfside United Methodist Church
Glynis Hopkins – Director; Sherri Boschen – Accompanist

Church of the Resurrection, Surfside Beach
Karen Kearney, Organist & Choirmaster

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
Dr. Robert Baxter – Director; Olivia Huggins – Accompanist

Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach
Mark Chaney – Organist and Choirmaster

A brass ensemble provided prelude and postlude music, and the service waqs brilliantly played by host organist Karen Kearney.

Dr. Larry Cook, dean of the Wilmington Chapter AGO, addresses the convocation

One of the highlights of the afternoon was surely the keynote address from Dr. Larry Cook, Organist and Choirmaster of St. Paul’s Epsicopal Church, Wilmington, NC, and dean of the Wilmington Chapter AGO.  His remarks were a reflection on the theme of the convovation, “A Light to Lighten the Nations,” a phrase from the Nunc dimittis in Luke 2.  Here is an excerpt:

“I like Martin Luther’s paraphrase of the Nunc dimittis, the German hymn “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” – “In peace and joy I now depart.”   “Peace” and “Joy” seem to be two of the essential elements of this Light that is capable of lightening the nations.  Now as leaders in the worship of this Light—and that is what church organists, choir directors, and choir members are—we have de facto assumed the responsibility of engaging in this “Lighting” or “Enlightening” endeavor.   There can be no doubt that music has an integral part to play:  few areas of human experience so completely involve the heart and the intellect so fully and compellingly as music can.   St. Augustine is supposed to have said [“bis orat qui bene cantat…] “he who sings well prays twice.”   And that often-omitted word “well” has to concern us…

“As reflectors of the Light to enlighten the Nations, we need to remove our reflective tarnish, working constantly to improve our skills and attitudes.  What kind of light are we reflecting?  Are we diligent is searching out and selecting music of the highest quality, or are we content to fritter away our time and energy with immediately appealing, but ultimately insubstantial, flashes of second rate stuff?   The story is told that Handel, after conducting a performance of Messiah, was approached by Lord Kinnoul who praised Handel, remarking how entertaining it was, Handel replied, “My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.”  Without getting too self-important about it, we should also feel this awesome responsibility.”

Read Dr. Cook’s entire remarks here.

Download the printed program of the convocation here;
more pictures from the afternoon’s proceedings here.

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