Published January 22, 2004
The second annual Dorothy Bunting Weiss Sacred Music Concert will be held Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church featuring organist Kelly Plauché Whittier.
A 2000 graduate of Emory University with a master of sacred music degree in organ performance, Whittier will be performing on the historic Catholic Church’s new Cassavant Freres organ. Her ecumenical program will draw upon Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed traditions in sacred music, and will be structured around the theme of “Ave Maris Stella,” a title for Mary which translates as “Hail Star of the Sea.”
The program will open with Bach’s Concerto in G, followed by the Chorale Prelude of Dietrich Buxtehude, “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star,” a title for Jesus and, in the Catholic tradition, also a title for Mary. Buxtehude, organist at the Lutheran Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church), was Bach’s primary mentor, according to program notes.
The program will continue with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B minor, the Prelude and Fugue “a la Russe” (in the Russian manner) of Vyacheslav Gavrilovich Karatygin, and “Wondrous Love,” Variations on a Shape-Note Hymn, by American composer Samuel Barber.
The program will conclude with two different organ versions of “Ave Maris Stella” and a cantor singing the Gregorian chant of the same title. One composition will be by 16th-century Italian organist and composer Girolamo Cavazzoni. The closing work will be Flor Peeters’ “Toccata, Fugue et Hymne sur Ave Maris Stella.”
At the conclusion, the audience will be invited to join in singing the hymn “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”
Whittier started learning piano when she was 5, coming to the organ in her junior year at the College of William and Mary. Her organ teachers have included Timothy Albrecht, Kim Kasling, David Jenkins and Jock Darling. Following graduation from Emory, she lived and worked in Vienna, Austria, serving as a substitute organist throughout the city, as well as playing several concerts. For the past two years, she worked as director of music and liturgy at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro.
Since August 2003, she has lived in St. Paul, Minn., where she is a postulant in a new private association, “Sisters in Jesus the Lord,” preparing to become a Roman Catholic sister to help Catholics in Far-Eastern Russia in the city of Vladivostok. She has dedicated the concert for the unity of all Christians, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, and in thanksgiving for the arrival and gift of the new “Stella Maris” organ at Most Holy Mother of God Catholic Church in Vladivostok.
“I’ve been looking for a long time for what music fits best together. I’m attracted by organ pieces that incorporate well-known melodies of hymns and Gregorian chants,” Whittier said in a telephone interview describing the one-hour program. “I’ve been especially interested in the Gregorian chant ‘Ave Maris Stella.’”
Her selections draw from both Catholic and Protestant musical traditions.
In seeking to incorporate Russian Orthodox elements, since Russian Orthodox sacred music is all a capella, she chose the piece by a Russian organ composer incorporating Russian folk music. She hopes to serve the Catholic Church in Russia in Vladivostok.
Most Holy Mother of God Catholic Church had been closed in the 1920s and turned into an archives building, Whittier said. With the fall of communism and the gradual revival of religious life, five Catholics in Vladivostok were able to restart the church with the help of two American missionary priests and Polish and Ukrainian exiles and get the church building back. The priests have requested sisters to come and help with the parish.
“Now they have about 500 people coming to Mass each Sunday. One way they have been able to let people know is through sacred music concerts,” Whittier said. “Every single concert they have is sold out. There is a verbal narration explaining each piece and the Christian message . . . Religion was so hidden for so long. They had taken God out of the dictionary. It was very hard to learn anything about Christianity.”
The concert will be performed on Sacred Heart Church’s new 46-rank organ, which was dedicated at a recital in May 2003. The organ has the original instrument façade woodwork and stenciled pipes that have been restored to their original beauty. William Krape serves as the parish organist.
The concert is sponsored by the Institute for Catholic Culture and Spirituality with the cooperation of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. It will be preceded by a business meeting and dinner for chapter members.
The concert is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted at the door to defray expenses and to assist the work of “Renewal of the Church in Russia.”
The Institute for Catholic Culture and Spirituality is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 2003 to serve as a catalyst for Catholic studies in the Atlanta area. This new institute developed from discussions begun in the late 1980s between Dom Armand Veilleux, OCSO, then abbot at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, and Drs. Dewey W. and Victor A. Kramer. They anticipated the need within the Atlanta metro region for a clearinghouse for Catholic programs that are educational, cultural, artistic or concerned with spirituality.
The artist of next year’s Sacred Music Concert will be Father Robert Koopman, OSB, of St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn. Arrangements are being made to involve the North Georgia alumni/ae of St. John’s and of St. Benedict’s, the women’s college in St. Joseph, Minn., to participate in this annual event.
Sacred Heart Church is located at 353 Peachtree St. For more information contact Joanne Brown of the Atlanta chapter of the American Guild of Organists at (770) 460-6390.