St. Luke's Episcopal Church celebrated the feast day of St. Cecilia, Friday evening, with a performance by vocal and instrumental ensembles of ''Ode for St. Cecilia's Day,'' by George Frideric Handel. The music is a setting of the poem ''A Song for St. Cecilia's Day,'' by English poet John Dryden.
Performing were the 24 voices of St. Luke's Festival Choir, which includes the church's regular choir, plus invited singers from throughout the community, and an eight-member instrumental ensemble.
The evening began with a welcome from narrator Peter Dawson. He called the audience's attention to the fact that Friday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In his memory, the performing artists and the congregation joined in singing ''My Country, 'Tis of Thee.'' Dawson then read the Dryden poem so that the audience could grasp the scope of the evening's performance.
The work of music is inspired by the common belief from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that because the same mathematical properties which enable instruments and voices to produce music, also enable the creation of geometric shapes and other solids and objects, that there must be, in outer space, what they commonly called ''The Music of the Spheres.''
Tenor soloist James Beal was the first singer, with a recitative stating, ''From harmony, from heavenly harmony, this universal frame began.''
The work was composed only a short while before Handel's better known work, ''Messiah,'' and so the sound is often quite similar. The principal difference is that much of the St. Cecilia Ode is secular, rather than sacred. Beal's tenor reminded the audience that the trumpet's clangor can excite humanity to take up arms, and when combined with the timpani's rumble can inspire an army to charge, even against outrageous odds.
Alto Catherine Way pointed out that the dulcet tones of the lute and the flute can teach lovers how to proclaim the emotions which have taken over their lives. Sopranos Victoria McIlvain and Caitlin O'Reilly alternately proclaimed the ability of the organ to outshout even the most noisy crowd of humanity, and the ability of the lyre to tame the anger and aggression of people.
In a beautiful trio, soloist McIlvain, cellist Daniel Johnson, and violinist Cathy Regis-Green celebrated mankind's ability to discover the greatness of God through the swell and flow of music.
The rest of the gifted instrumental ensemble were violinist Sadie Anderson, timpanist Craig Ridgway, bassist Peter Cohn, trumpeter Kyle Gustafson and organist Jack Bollman. Andrew Schmidt, St. Luke's director of music, conducted the performance, and performed on both organ and piano.
It was exciting to see the residents of our community accept the challenge of performing work which was both expressive and very demanding, and they expressed themselves most effectively.