Sunday I had the sheer delight of attending the Christmas at Loyola concert at the 100 year old Holy Name of Jesus Church on St. Charles Avenue. You have to know about it. The concert is free, but almost unadvertised. The church is cathedral-esque, though smaller than some. The narrow vaulted ceiling painted in light colors, the stunning stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ, and the rich red wall-coverings in the apse give this space a grandeur reaching way beyond its place in uptown New Orleans. Footsteps echo on the stone floor, and whispers before the program roar like the ocean.
When the Loyola chorale enters singing an arrangement of Hodie Christus Natus Est, we are transported almost to the gates of heaven. The sound reverberates and fills the enormous space. It is hard to imagine anything more beautiful sung by the heavenly host.
An hour and a half of sublime Christmas music by the Brass ensemble, the Chamber orchestra, the Chamber singers, the jazz band and the organ seems too little, too short. The audience joins in the singing of classic carols like O Come All ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and Silent Night. God makes even our amateurish singing sound heavenly in that voluminous space.
I have heard this concert but once before. I hope never to miss it. It makes the Advent season seem less hurried, more filled with the wonder of the Word made flesh.
I am reading the Advent devotional by Ann Voskamp in which she urges us to slow down and savor His coming. My prayer is that everyone finds a way to encounter God through music this season. The rich tones of voice and brass, complemented by the wise, poetic lyrics of the great Christmas songs, reach deep into our hearts, unwrapping a joy that is for everyone. I believe it is the sound of heaven. May you find the greatest gift this Christmas.