"O come let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation."
We are proud of our musical heritage here at S. Stephen's, and many of our visitors are pleasantly surprised at its quality. It is unusual for a parish church to have such a robust music program, but for us it is part and parcel of our mission. Music has been a prominent component of our parish life since our earliest years, and we continue to be committed to the finest musical offerings we can muster. We have been particularly fortunate in having James Busby as our Organist & Choirmaster: over the last twenty-nine years, James has built our choir into the highly skilled, professional ensemble it is today.
Why have such a serious music program? For us the answer is simple. The worship of Almighty God is the single most important act of the Church, and the most noble endeavor we can undertake.
The Schola Cantorum with Organist & Choirmaster, James Busby., in the Lady Chapel.
We bring the best we can offer to this task, because we believe that it is both the essence of our religious lives and the summation of what it means to be human. Worship is an ethical task concerned with justice and the kingdom of God, even as it is also a spiritual task concerned with grace and the salvation of our souls. To make it as beautiful as possible is for us a way of investing in the whole package, and asserting the essential unity of the world as seen through the lens of faith.
In the age of YouTube and Spotify, it is easy to forget that much of the western musical inheritance was written to fulfill specific functions beyond the mere delight of the listener. Perhaps nowhere is this more the case than with the vast body of sacred music, which forms such a major component of that inheritance. This music was written - is still being written! - to play an integral role in the Church's worship. It consists in musical settings of texts and canticles which are appointed for various kinds of services, as well as poetic reflections on Scripture and matters of faith. To keep singing and playing them in church is a way of keeping the tradition vibrant, and reveals to us something both of the human spirit which composed them and of the divine Spirit to whom they are directed. In church, such music is a reminder that Beauty does not exist merely to be part of our decor. Rather, Beauty exists to reveal itself gratuitously and bring us finally to behold its source and consummation: the eternal triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.