Saturday, January 23, 2010

Choirs join forces in interfaith Spring Sing

Honoring an ancient tradition, the Threshold Choir sings at the bedside of people who are struggling. They sing for adults and babies, some dying, some recovering. They sing at homes, hospices, and hospitals but they never perform.

“The name is a little misleading,” admitted Theresa Sapunar, director of two regional Threshold Choirs in Cincinnati and Yellow Springs. “The only time we’re all together is when we rehearse. When we go to a bedside, there’s only two or three of us at most.”

Fortunately for villagers, the Yellow Springs Threshold Choir will make an exception in order to participate in the Third Annual Spring Sing, a free public concert sponsored by the Yellow Springs Interspiritual Council (YSIC). The concert will feature nine groups in total from local spiritual-based communities and will be held at the United Methodist Church, 202 S. Winter Street, on Sunday, June 8 at 2 p.m.

Other ensembles that will be new to this year’s event will be from the Yellow Springs Apostolic Church and the Cincinnati women’s group MUSE.

“The concert is an attempt to reach out beyond denominational lines within the community and find common ground,” said concert coordinator, Dayna Foster. “We invited different spiritual groups from the village to come and offer their sacred music.” Each group will perform one or two songs. Several audience sing alongs will be included.

“We’ve been opening the concert with a song called ‘Building Bridges’ that talks about building bridges between our divisions,” said Foster. “It symbolizes what the Council is all about.” Mitzi Manny, Minister of Music from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Yellow Springs will lead the opening song.

Foster is not only coordinator of the concert but a choir member as well. “I sing with the [First Presbyterian Church] gospel group called the Soul Stirrers,” she said. “In my casual survey of spiritual beliefs, I’ve found common themes and one of them is the belief that there is a spark of the divine in all of us. So, in the beginning, I invite people to turn to their neighbors and say, ‘I greet the divine in you.’”

Janeal Ravndal will be leading participants in a song from the Society of Friends hymn book. Sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the song honors the work of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucretia Mott. Ravndal was part of a small Friends group that performed in last year’s concert.

“It was great!” she said. “If you know Quakers, you know that they have a history of not having music [at their meetings]. That’s not true now. Our meeting has some fine musicians in it.”

Ravndal enjoys the ecumenical opportunity that the concert presents. “I’m a person who all my life has loved visiting other churches,” she said, adding that she also enjoys the village’s Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Walk and rally which provide a similar opportunity.

Ken Simon will be part of a group representing the Dharma Center which participated in the Council’s first concert. At that concert, Simon was awed by the beauty of the music. “The whole concert was fabulous,” he said. “It’s surprising how beautiful the music is from all these different traditions. I just loved all of it.”

That first year, Dharma Center members led the audience in a traditional Zen Buddhist chant, which was done in Japanese. This year, the chant will be done in Pali, an ancient language of India which was in use at the time of Buddha.

Amy Bowling is music director for the Apostolic Church. She and members of her adult choir will sing “Matthew 28,” taken from a Bible verse. Bowling is looking forward to giving villagers who know of the church a chance to actually experience the church. “I think some people have a predetermined assumption about [the Apostolic religion],” explained Bowling. “If you haven’t seen it for yourself, then you might be getting a false assumption.”

In addition to the concert, the YSIC’s other major activity has been the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, a free event for all villagers to gather for good food and fellowship. Originally called the Interfaith Council, the group’s name was changed in order to broaden the definition of what it means to be spiritual.

Joan Chappelle joined the YSIC four years ago and sees the mission in the making, particularly with the concerts. “More and more groups are participating each year,” said Chappelle. “In the last two concerts, we have had such an afternoon of sharing and noticing that we all have more in common than we think.” Through the universal language of music, participants learn about other spiritual perspectives while sharing the positive benefits they derive from their own. Other participating groups will be the United Methodist Church, Grandmother Drum Healing Circle, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and St. Paul Catholic Church. Local documentary filmmaker Aileen LeBlanc will present the program.

“There’s no lecture and no proselytizing,” said Chappelle. “No matter what faith ― even no faith! It’s just pure fun.”

“What I hope happens,” said Foster, “is participants will see some of our spiritual beliefs in somebody else’s music and when we get together to talk that might be a place for us to start.”

For more information, contact Dayna Foster at or 767-7594.

Originally published in the Yellow Springs News.

Susan Gartner is a freelance writer and photographer for the News.