WILKES-BARRE — The deaf will hear, the blind will see, the wilderness will blossom. Wolves and lambs will live together, with “the small” no longer having to fear “the fierce.” And a virgin will conceive and bear a son.
As lectors read and a 40-member choir sang those predictions from the prophet Isaiah on Wednesday evening at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, their faces told stories, just as their voices did.
Anthony Petrone, for one, seemed almost moved to tears during the church’s annual Festival Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent, which included music by J.S. Bach, Jacob Handl, Felix Mendelssohn and several other composers.
“It has a sense of majesty and mystery and evokes a sense of awe,” the tenor from Clarks Summit said after the service.
Alto Lisa Daris, from Dallas, meanwhile, fairly radiated happiness throughout the program.
“I just love singing,” she said later, adding she sees the annual concert, coming as it does amid the rush of shopping and other Christmas preparations, as an opportunity to “take a breather and remember why you’re doing all the crazy stuff.”
Because it’s an Advent program rather than a Christmas program, organist Mark Laubach said, much of the sentiment expressed is anticipatory, about waiting for a savior and a time of peace.
Holding a Festival Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent is an English tradition, Laubach said, and the premiere example takes place each year at King’s College in Cambridge. This year, local listeners can tune in to a broadcast of the Cambridge concert at 10 a.m. Dec. 24 over WVIA-FM. (The radio station also will air St. Stephen’s Advent program at 7 a.m. Dec. 25 and 4 p.m. Dec. 25.)
Hearing the live version at St. Stephen’s was inspirational, said audience member Lois Sims, of Wilkes-Barre. “You can always count on hearing a beautiful concert here. The organ is unbelievable.”
“You would probably have to travel to New York City or London, England, to hear anything similar,” said Ed Loch, choirmaster from St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre, who was one of seven singers from that nearby parish who joined a core group of St. Stephen’s singers for the program.
Other guest participants — “We call them ‘ringers,’ ” Laubach said — represented Christ Church Cobble Creek in Brooklyn, First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre, Good Shepherd Academy in Kingston, Grace Episcopal Church in Honesdale, Nebo Baptist Church in Nanticoke, St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Fairmount Springs, Second Presbyterian Church of Carlisle, and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hazleton.
Roberta Brandreth, of Mountain Top, hails from St. Peter’s, and said she was delighted to sing at St. Stephen’s with her son, Seth, and 10-year-old granddaughter, Rebecca.
Having three generations sing together was special, Seth Brandreth of Swoyersville agreed. “I love it,” he said. “It’s just such wonderful music.”