Lessons and Carols tell the Advent story through music

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — Music, a part of Advent and Christmas celebrations for centuries, gives people an uplifting and memorable meaning to the season. The 8th annual Advent Lessons and Carols concert will be held at 7 p.m., December 12, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City. It will be an evening of choral music sung by the Cathedral Schola, scripture readings, and hymns for the congregation to sing in preparation for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Free will donations will be accepted for the concert.

Dr. Mario Pearson, Director of Music and Liturgy and organist, has assembled choral pieces from different centuries and different countries for this concert. He spends a lot of time during the year, reading about and listening to choral pieces in order to select the perfect music for Lessons and Carols.

This year the concert will include:

O Radiant Dawn, part of the Magnificat O Antiphons which are sung at Vespers during the last week of Advent in Western Christian traditions; Gabriel’s Message, The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Mary… the angel Gabriel’s familiar message to Mary that she would bear a son; O Antiphons – Gregorian Chant; and the premiere of Dicite-Pusillanimes (Say to them that are of fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: Behold, our God will come and save us.) composed by Leslee Wood, a soprano in the Cathedral’s Schola.

Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music Giovanni Palestrina’s Ave Maria, a rarely performed, rarely heard Ave Maria that Dr. Pearson found particularly moving; an Estonian composition: Bogoroditse Djevo – Arvo Part (Rejoice O Virgin Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls.); O Frondens Virga, composed by St. Hildegard von Bingen, OSB, German Benedictine abbess, writer composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary and polymath, the opening chant of which “grabbed” Dr. Pearson’s attention, and Ralph Manuel’s Alleluia, with the text comprised of a single word — Alleluia — a quiet, reverent a cappella piece that continues to be a strong choral piece of praise.

Dr. Pearson also included Freedom Come by Ben Allaway. Its style is that of a South African freedom song (and since Dr. Pearson is originally from South Africa, the piece has particular appeal to him), in which the choir and soloists provide a dramatic uplifting experience of the lyrics (Inside these walls, [Freedom come, freedom come], Come one and all. Hallelujah! Come for the healing, we will pray for healing ….) a message that fits in with the Advent theme.

The congregation will be able to join the Schola for three hymns: Lo he comes with clouds descending; On Jordan’s Banks and the closing hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Dr. Pearson said that Lessons and Carols can be another way of teaching a child the meaning of Advent and Christmas. The story of Christmas, the waiting period before Christmas when we prepare to welcome the Christ Child, told through fresh musical pieces.


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November 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph