The 63-member National Lutheran Choir, based in Minneapolis, is making its sixth stop in St. Louis to perform its annual Christmas festival, this time themed “The Spotless Rose.” The performance will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood on Saturday.
“We look for a space that fits the kind of program that we do,” said David Cherwein, artistic director of the choir. “That was more of the effort than ecumenical issues…which I would love to brag about, but I can’t. We’re really all partners in the whole thing.”
The chorus performs sacred music with the accompaniment of organ, flute and harp—with a few surprises mixed in for attendees. This year’s performance plays off of the theme of the rose, an important symbol for the Christian church.
“The rose has always been associated with Christians as Christ or Mary, the mother of Christianity,” Cherwein said. “It is actually a pagan symbol that has to do with fertility, which is typical for the church to adapt and adopt. It’s kind of a metaphoric understanding of beauty.”
Cherwein decided to focus on beauty in order “to bring something to the contemporary time that we need right now,” Cherwein said.
“There’s so much ugh and ugliness right now that the theme of beauty made sense,” he continued.
The marquee performance is that of the classic “A Spotless Rose,” set by Herbert Howells. Others may know the title as “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” The focus of the song is on Mary and the birth of Jesus and the musicality gives a “sense of gentle breezes blowing through the garden,” Cherwein said.
The performance will also include crowd sing-a-longs in the form of Christmas carol favorites “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World.” There will be no applause in the performance as one song moves to another interspersed with poetry.
“It is a journey like a good movie: you get swept in and next thing you know it is over,” Cherwein said.
The National Lutheran Choir has many connections to St. Louis—particularly in the publishing industry with Concordia Publishing House and Morningstar Publishing.
St. Louis, of course, has a tie to the Twin Cities with the source of the Mississippi as well as St. Louis Public Radio favorite “A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor,” which often references the Lutheran Church on the show.
Although the National Lutheran Choir, now celebrating 30 years in existence, has not been on the show with Garrison Keillor, Cherwein says:
“I may be reluctant to say that just about everything he says is true.”
What: National Lutheran Choir Christmas Concert
When: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 2:00 p.m.
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 100 E Adams Ave, Kirkwood, MO 63122
“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.