Wittenberg Hosts Medieval Candlelight Vespers Service, Candlemas, Feb. 1
Springfield, Ohio – Wittenberg University’s annual Medieval Candlelight Vespers service, better known as Candlemas, will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, in historic Weaver Chapel. Pre-service music starts at 7:15 p.m.
The event, which takes place each year on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, will be led by University Pastor Andy Tune.
The service marks the occasion in which the Virgin Mary presented Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after giving birth, as was the custom according to Jewish law. Candlemas is distinguishable from other services at Weaver Chapel because of the fashion in which the event is celebrated.
“The music comes from the Middle Ages,” Tune said. “There are no electrical lights and no use of the organ – only candles.”
The worship is primarily musical, with an instrumental group, Wind in the Woods, and an all-male choir, Schola Cantorum, assisting in the evening’s service. The ceremony will include a reading from a late medieval writer.
The annual service was born out of the joint efforts of several people, including The Rev. Larry Houff, a former Wittenberg campus pastor; Jane Otten, retired adjunct instructor of voice and leader of Kalliope, an early music ensemble; and the late Professor of Music and University Organist Donald Busarow. The musical nature of the service piqued the interests of the professors and the pastor, who was also a musician and often assisted in chapel music. From its modest beginnings the service has become an appreciated annual mid-winter worship event.
The director of the Schola Cantorum this year will be David Crean, University Organist at Wittenberg. The choir will sing period works and chant a psalm, following the practices of monks in the medieval monasteries. Wind in the Woods, whose members come from Beavercreek, Tipp City and Springfield, will play such medieval instruments as recorders, the lute and a predecessor to the trombone.
The blessing of the candles, from which the service derives its namesake, will occur immediately following the opening procession. In this tradition, all of the candles used by the chapel for the coming year will be blessed, and the public is invited to bring in their own candles and take part in the old ritual.
“It is a more contemplative type of worship service,” said Tune. “While the crowd is generally not large, it attracts folks from Dayton, Columbus, and other neighboring cities. And as far as I know in our area, it’s only held at Wittenberg.”