Wittenberg Celebrates Annual Candlemas Service Feb. 2
Published Jan. 14, 2011
Springfield, Ohio –Historic Weaver Chapel is the site of one of Wittenberg University’s most cherished annual events at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, with the annual Medieval Candlelight Vespers Service, better known as Candlemas. UPDATE: Candlemas will now take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, due to the ice storm that closed Wittenberg on Feb. 1 and 2.
The event, which takes place each year on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, will be led by University Pastor Andy Tune. Pre-service music starts at 7 p.m.
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 a 12-member, 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 Larry Houff, a former Wittenberg campus pastor; Jane Otten, retired adjunct instructor of voice and leader of Kalliope, an early music ensemble, and 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.
“It began modestly,” Busarow said. “There was a year or two where nothing happened. Then we got excited about it, and now it’s going on pretty strong.”
Busarow, who directed the famed Wittenberg Choir for 28 years before stepping down in 2010, will direct Schola Cantorum during the service as the members sing period works and chant a psalm in Latin, which corresponds to 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 takes a special kind of person to come take part,” said Busarow. “It’s a modest crowd, but people come from Dayton and Columbus. It’s not held anywhere else I know of. It’s unique to Wittenberg.”
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Robert Gantt