Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The 37th Year of Holy Weeks

The Pocono Mountain Community Chorus of Churches presented their 37th Annual Holy Week Concert Series at a number of Christian Churches throughout the area. The Chorus is comprised of approximately 61 singers representing 32 different churches of all Christian denominations established in the Monroe County, PA and surrounding areas (including New Jersey). Together, they joined to honor a week in which many of those practicing the Christian religion consider to be of paramount importance to their faith. The Choir was led by Jack Hamblin who was accompanied by Gary Raish on Organ and Judy Munoz on Piano.

There were three concerts in the series. The first was held at The Reeders, PA United Methodist Church on Sunday March 20th, the second was held at The Cherry Lane United Methodist Church in East Stroudsburg, PA on Tuesday March 22nd, and the third was held at The Christ Episcopal Church in Stroudsburg, PA on Wednesday March 23rd. I was able to attend the concerts on March 20th and 23rd. Although the programs were similar, each presentation had its own distinctive flavor which was enhanced by the atmosphere of the church they performed in.

The concerts began with the choir and the huge gathering of believers joining together in the singing of the hymn titled, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The conclusion of the hymn led Mr. Hamblin to stand before the gathering in order to share his welcoming words along information about the choir and its endeavors. This was followed by welcoming sentiments shared by the churches along with a responsive reading relating to the day of week. It was after these greetings did the choral performance begin.

The program presented a variety of musical styles which were joyously sung in well blended harmonies by the loving voices of the choir membership. It all began with the composition titled, “O The Boundless Love of God” by Diana Mengel and concluded with “His Robes For Mine” by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger as arranged by Dan Forrest. The performances included performances by Solo Oboist Adriana Howden for “Gethsemane Prayer” which was adapted from the Piano Concerto # 2 composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff with words added by Patricia Mock and arranged by Faye Lopez, an instrumental piece presented during the offering by Gary Raish on Organ and Bob Riday on Piano (on Sunday March 20th), an Organ Solo presented by Thomas Busteed (on Wednesday March 23rd), Solo Vocalists Sue Hamblin (on Sunday March 20th) and Nancy Joy Kotch (on Wednesday March 23rd), and The Tenor - Bass Choir who performed “Saints Bound For Heaven” by William Walker and J. King as arranged by Alice parker and Robert Shaw.

As the final echoes of the choir and its soloist fell upon the sanctuary and its denizens, parting words filled with appreciation were shared Mr. Hamblin and by the church. This was followed by a benediction and the playing of the Postlude which was the “Hallelujah” chorus from the oratorio titled, “Messiah” composed by George Frideric Handel in 1741. The piece was performed by Gary Raish and Thomas D. Busteed on Organ along with Bob Riday and Judy Munoz on Piano. The four handed presentation of the work led to a rousing finale to the afternoon. This proved to have an enlivening effect on the audience which was evident in their conversations as they left the church to prepare themselves for the remainder of holy week. You’ll find more photographs taken during the concerts in The 37th Year of Holy Weeks Gallery at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153726812703761.1073741835.91146283760&type=1.

To many who embrace the Christian Faith, the week corresponding with the Hebrew Holiday of Passover contains events in which an individual known as, “Joshua, son of Joseph” (aka Jesus The Messiah or Christ) partook of toward the end of his life in c. 33 C. E. (Common Era). These include holidays known as Palm Sunday in which he reportedly rode upon a donkey into the city of Jerusalem which was located in the Roman province of Judea, Maundy Thursday in which he held his final meal celebrating the Passover holiday with his disciples, Good Friday upon which he was executed by crucifixion after being found guilty for sedition, and Easter Sunday in which some claim he was reanimated (resurrected) after his death and resumed his role as a leader to his disciples until his “ascension into the Heavens” echoing an act believed to had been performed by the Hebrew Profit Elijah several centuries earlier.

The Pocono Mountain Community Chorus of Churches hold a series of concerts Annually in commemoration of Holy week and the events which took place during it. Members of the community are invited to lend their voices and participate in their 38
th Annual Concert Series with rehearsals beginning early in 2017. Membership in the choir is free and open to all singers who enjoy sacred music associated with the Christian faith regardless of their level of musical experience. The Chorus rehearses for six Sunday afternoons before and during The Christian Church's season known as Lent. To learn more about this year’s series, how to participate in next year’s series, or The Pocono Mountain Community Chorus of Churches in general, please Contact its director, Jack Hamblin, at 570-839-9464 or theauctioneer@jackhamblinauctions.com for more information. 
Photography by Paparazzi Paul.

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