Sunday, August 11, 2013

First Sunday in New Jersey – Songs of wonder, love and praise! The Montreal Boy’s Choir Camp

Soon after the New Jersey Episcopal election, I received a call from Canon Rob Picken of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York in the Diocese of Long Island.   It was good to hear from him.  He was a former student.  Rob was a fifth-grader at Grace Day School in Massapequa, New York when I was the School Chaplain there.   Over the past few years, Rob had become involved with the renowned Montreal Boys’ Choir Course.  Rob called to ask if I would be willing to be the preacher and celebrant at the closing Eucharist of the 2013 program.
With Canon Rob Picken
The Montreal Boys’ Choir Course was begun in 1960, when four Anglican parishes in Montreal determined to bring together outstanding choral musicians from Canada and the United States (and now from Great Britain) “for a week of singing, sports, creative activities, and worship.”  (See  While, historically, the course had been held in Montreal, circumstances determined that the 2013 MBCC would be held in the United States.   The course itself was to be hosted at the Lawrenceville School. Participants came from 22 different churches including All Saints Ashmont Parish, Dorchester, MA; Cathedral of All Saints, Albany, NY; Cathederal of the Incarnation, Garden City, NY; Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, KY; Grace Church on-the-Hill, Ontario; Metropolitan Boys Choir, Minneapolis, MN; St. Mary’s, Swanage, UK; St. Thomas Choir School, New York, St. Paul’s K-Street, Washington, Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston and several others.  The closing Eucharist would take place on August 4, at The Miller Chapel of The Princeton Theological Seminary.    I was thrilled to accept!  Being a trained choral musician, having attended St. Thomas Choir School in New York as a boy, I felt this would be a glorious and personally meaningful way for me to celebrate my first Sunday and kick-off my ministry in the Diocese of New Jersey. 

 On Thursday, August 1, Susan and I made the short drive from Trenton to the Lawrenceville School to observe some of the MBCC rehearsals.  There were two sessions.  A group of about 40 treble boys was rehearsing under the direction of Simon Lole.  Simon is a major figure in England.  Trained as a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, he was educated at the Guildhall School of Music and King’s College, London University and served as Organist and Music Director at Sheffield Cathedral and at Salisbury Cathedral. He also taught at Jesus College, Cambridge.  A noted composer, today, Simon is a recognized figure in classical-crossover music, appearing regularly on BBC and recording regularly with major international record labels.  It was a great joy to watch Simon rehearse the trebles.  He was meticulous, but always caring and enthusiastic.  Short phrases were repeated until they were perfect.
The adult men and women rehearsed separately under the direction of Patrick Wedd, another enormously talented and gracious man, who is the Director of Music at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal.  The sounds were magnificent.  I couldn’t wait to see how it would all come together when this choir of over 70 people joined forces for the closing Eucharist on Sunday morning and for Evensong on Sunday afternoon.  
 The theme and focus of this year’s MBCC was “the Holy Spirit.”  The repertoire included:
J.S. Bach  - Der Geist hilft (Carus edition).
With choristers from St. Thomas Choir School
Francis Jackson - Evening Service in G
Gabriel Jackson -Preces & Responses (Edinburgh)   
Jonathan Dove - Missa Brevis
Gerald Near - Spiritus Domini
Grayston Ives – Listen, Sweet Dove

It was a great privilege to be the preacher and celebrant for this incredible music event. Miller Chapel was filled with ethereal sound.  I was most honored to welcome the entire gathering on behalf of the people of the Diocese of New Jersey..  For this to be my first official act as the Bishop-elect of the Diocese of New Jersey was a grace-filed and wondrous thing for me, for which I am deeply thankful to God.  Susan and I stayed for lunch and Evensong.  I even got to meet three boys from my alma mater St. Thomas Choir School.  It was a glorious first Sunday as Bishop-elect of New Jersey!

The text of my sermon which tells of my own experience as a choirboy at St. Thomas Choir School, is available as a separate blog entry.   

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