Sunday, September 30, 2018
4:30pm | Saint James Episcopal Church, Dexter

Refugees, exiles, asylum seekers, immigrants. Like the Israelites and Jesus and his family, millions of people around the world move away from home and homeland seeking safety, employment, and a new life.

The modern American state was built by immigrants, ancestors to many of us. Do we now see ourselves as the new natives, protecting our borders from intruders? How do we interpret the biblical language of the “promised land” and the “city on a hill” in our contemporary contexts? Where is our final resting place? Where, or who, is our home?

Gather with us in a brief vespers service to hear and sing music exploring these biblical themes and music by immigrant composers as we experience together a beautiful evensong liturgy.

The gathered assembly will have many opportunities to join in the singing. Free childcare is provided. Reception to follow. Service and reception are free and open to the public.

And a few days earlier, come to our next Coffee & Conversation event—Immigration in Michigan: Our Neighbors’ Stories.

[Subscribe to the Elm Ensemble to hear great sacred music in context.]

Bulletin from September 2018 evensong at Saint James Episcopal Church, Dexter, Michigan

[Download PDF of the bulletin]

Notes on Music

What images come to mind when we hear the words immigrant and refugee? Where are these people from and why did they—willingly or unwillingly—leave the country of their birth to take up residence in a foreign land? What forces led them here?

This evening’s musical selections include pieces from three composers born in Europe who eventually lived and worked in the US.

Jean Berger

Born to a Jewish family in Hamm, Germany, and originally named Arthur Schlossberg, Berger studied musicology in Vienna and Heidelberg while at the same time becoming an accomplished pianist and conductor. He earned a doctorate in Heidelberg, accepted a post as assistant conductor at the major opera house in Mannheim, and studied composition with the chief cantor of the city’s mainstream nonorthodox synagogue. While leading an opera rehearsal in Mannheim, he was forcibly removed by Brown Shirts (SA). After the Nazi Party seized power in Germany in 1933, he moved to Paris, where he took the French name Jean Berger and toured widely as a pianist. From 1939 to 1941, he was assistant conductor at the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro and on the faculty of the Brazilian Conservatory. In 1941, he moved to the United States and served in the US Army beginning in 1942. In 1943, he became a US citizen and worked in the Office of War Information producing foreign-language broadcasts and USO shows until 1946. From 1946 to 1948, he worked as an arranger for CBS and NBC and toured as a concert accompanist. In 1948, Berger moved into the academic world, serving on the faculty of Middlebury College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Colorado Women’s College in Denver. Several of Berger’s pieces have become standards in the choral repertoire, “The Eyes of All Wait Upon Thee” perhaps the most well known and often performed.

Jan Bender

Jan Oskar Bender was born in Haarlem, Holland, on February 9, 1909, and moved to Lübeck, Germany, at age 13. As a teenager, he studied organ in Lübeck at the Marienkirche with Karl Lichtwark and Walter Kraft. In 1930, Bender went to Leipzig to study with Karl Straube, then returned to Lübeck to study with the young composer Hugo Distler. Bender served as organist at St. Gertrudikirche in Lübeck from 1934 to 1937, then at Lambertikirche in Aurich from 1937 to 1952, interrupted twice for active duty in the German army. He was wounded during his first tour of duty, losing his left eye to shrapnel. At the end of the war, Bender surrendered to Allied forces in France and, while in an American POW camp, completed his Auricher Singbüchlein. From 1953 to 1960, Bender served as cantor and organist at the Michaeliskirche in Lüneberg, where J. S. Bach had sung as a choir boy. Bender’s compositions became known to prominent Lutheran church musicians in the US, and in 1954 he was invited to become a “house composer” for Concordia Publishing House in Saint Louis. Bender eventually moved to the US for work, first at Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska, and then at Wittenberg University in Ohio. He composed prolificly and also played numerous organ recitals around the country. Bender moved back to Germany when he retired and died at his home in Hanerau, Germany, on December 29, 1994.

Gerhard Krapf

Gerhard Krapf was born in Meissenheim, Germany, in 1924. He studied piano and organ in his youth and at the age of 18 was drafted into the German army. He was wounded six times in the course of his military service and did not know the war had ended when he was captured by the Russian army on May 10, 1945. Krapf began composing in the years that followed as he worked in labor camps, writing his compositions on cement bags. After his release, he completed music degrees in Germany and emmigrated to the US in 1953 for further study. Krapf founded the organ department at the University of Iowa and served as professor of organ there from 1962 to 1977 and at the University of Alberta from 1977 to 1987. Krapf composed mostly organ music and in much of his choral music chose biblical texts as inspiration.

Jesus the Refugee

French artist Luc Olivier Merson’s arresting 1879 painting Rest on the Flight into Egypt, in highly romanticized but deeply empathetic fashion, shows the isolation and vulnerability of Mary, Joseph, and their baby son. Fleeing persecution at the hands of local authorities, and with help from the three magi, the Holy Family takes refuge in Egypt. Joseph dozes beside a dying campfire while their donkey grazes. On the left, Mary and the infant Jesus sleep in the arms of the sphinx, its eyes turned to heaven. Merson never traveled to North Africa, but his use of archeological detail creates the illusion of an eyewitness account.

Do we see scenes like this today, of desperate travelers, exhausted and alone? How do we respond?

Promotional Materials

[Download PDF of Evensong Poster]

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