The Song of Songs is a small book of only eight chapters in the Hebrew Bible, nestled between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah. It’s easy to miss, and – except occasionally at a wedding – is rarely read from in church services. That’s because, unlike other books in the Old Testament, it shows no interest in the law or the God of Israel; instead it celebrates sexual love, giving “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy” (Song of Songs, 5:2).
On Sunday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m., a special Choral Evensong service at Leaside United Church will celebrate the themes, and pick up on the imagery from the Book of Song of Songs with choral pieces ranging from the Renaissance to the modern era, and congregational songs sung by all drawn from various denominational sources. The program will include an anthem I Beheld Her, by Canadian composer Healey Willan, which is based on Song of Songs texts, and the hymn, Arise, My Love, My Fairest One, by Rhiannon Hill and Elizabeth Pancer, both divinity students at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto.
To what do we owe this choral music event in celebration of love? It’s the gift of Matthew Boutda, talented director of music at Leaside United Church, in partial completion of Matt’s Master of Sacred Music degree at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto. It’s also the gift of the devoted members of the church’s chancel choir.
The timing for a choral program on this topic could not be better – after all, it’s Valentine’s Day later that week.
All are welcome to attend – may the music inspire, move and delight you!