175TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERTS
Fr. Mike asked me to write Thoughts from the Pastor this week. So we’ll call this Thoughts from the Guardian since I am guardian of the friar community here at St. Peter’s. I share with you some very good news about an upcoming celebration of
St. Peter’s 175th Anniversary. I invite you to the WORLD PREMIERE concerts of my own creation, The Nature Suite on Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4, both at 7:30 p.m. These concerts will be right here in our church performed by none other than the renowned Chicago Sinfonettia! The concerts will be under the baton of our own Friar Dennis Schafer, OFM; we’ve collaborated on any number of concerts and recordings since we were in college. We are still in the planning stages but I can guarantee you that both concerts will be filled with beautiful music and big surprises!
If you read The Legionnaire each month you know how much our Franciscan tradition embraces and endorses the whole concept of beauty. St. Bonaventure used the ascription of Beauty Itself to describe the very essence of God. Francis of Assisi, you know too well, loved and respected “our sister, Mother Earth” and all of creation. He used that very phrase in the middle of his cherished Canticle of the Creatures that he composed during the last year of his life. Francis and Clare were born into the dazzling beauty of Umbria and they appreciated every sunrise, every swallow, every flower in spring – all God’s creatures. Creation is emblematic of God, the Most High. The 175th Committee offers these concerts of Beauty Itself in thanksgiving for the blessings God has poured into the hearts of millions of people all these years.
Francis was known to have been a musical person. We have a few of his prayers and letters, two versions of our Rule for Life and many memories of his words written down by his close friends or the earliest hagiographers. His most quoted, most sung work was the aforementioned Canticle of the Creatures. I’ve included a tiny copy of a page from Codex 338 in Bibliotecca Comune in Assisi. Even if you can’t read it I want you to see it. According to Franciscans I worked with in the libraries of Assisi, this is the first written version of Francis’ composition; he wrote it in the Umbrian dialect, a precursor of modern Italian. The Canticle begins with the large capital A on the word Altissimu which means “Most High”. On the second page begins his litanywherein he praises God for all creatures like Brother Sun, Sister Water, Mother Earth, Sister Death and so on. What’s most pertinent for this article and the reason I include this page of the manuscript here are the spaces between the lines of text. According to friars I worked with like Gerhard Ruf, OFM, Conv., Evangelista Nicolini, OFM and Marino Bigaroni, OFM, those spaces were left blank in the manuscript to make room for the melody that Francis wrote for The Canticle. True? There’s also a story that the original melody was that of the Exultet or Easter Proclamation. True? No one knows for certain. But what is certain is that our founder, Francesco Bernadone, was certainly musical. The hagiography contains abundant stories about him singing, pretending to play a stringed instrument and conversing with his beloved larks over Assisi. We pattern our lives after a very creative saint!
The Nature Suite is one of my largest compositions. It’s a collection of 16 pieces for orchestra written and recorded in Italy a few years ago with Orchestra da Camera di Perugia. The Suite is a patchwork quilt of my experiences of life in the Midwest, particularly in Illinois. That background is naturally flavored by my 54 years as a Franciscan and the legacy that Francis and Clare passed on to us. I captured in sound those multivalent elements of my life as friar, artist and priest. Some of the titles might help you understand the concept of The Nature Suite: Floral Regalia, October Quilt, The Majestic Mississippi, Creation Rejoices, Hollyhocks Waltz, Animal Circus, Illinois Dusk, the Cosmos. And….you can buy the recording in St. Peter’s Book and Gift Shop now or online at CD Baby and iTunes!
If you share the cultural life of Chicago you know that to mount an event such as these 175th Anniversary concerts will take financial underwriting; I’ve already begun to seek financial support from both individuals and corporate sponsors. If you would like to share this aspect of our joyful celebration, please contact me personally here at St. Peter’s.
We began this Anniversary last year and will continue until August 2022. Millions of people have walked through our bronze doors on Madison Street, the wooden doors of the church on Clark and Polk and the first church on Washington between Franklin and Wells; they have many reasons to praise God for the sacramental and pastoral ministry offered by the founding clergy and our Franciscan presence that began in July of 1875. Please unite in our year-long prayers of gratitude and the various celebrations yet to come: these concerts June 3 & 4, our Annual Gala at the Union League Club on Thursday, July 14. Watch for even more details about these two events and more in the weeks ahead. We friars have endless reasons to thank God for everything our community of faith brings to the Church every day. God enriches us through sacramental ministry, programs and these very special events ~ all offered to you in return for the faith, witness and loving support you’ve given God and God’s people for 175 years. Indeed, Happy Anniversary!
Fr. Bob Hutmacher, ofm