by Esther-Ruth Teel, interim Music Director
I have participated in Candlelight Compline for about seven years, and I have been the choral director for the service since Christmas of 2014. The very first time I set foot in St. Barnabas was to attend a Compline service, and I remember being struck by its enchanting simplicity and beauty. The service is uniquely lovely, and certainly counter-cultural. It talks about sleep, but with overtones of death, the eternal sleep. It consciously slows us down, and the whole service feels like a framework around silence.
Compline draws together singers from divergent backgrounds, some who have been singing Compline services for decades, and some who have only been alive for a few decades. The unity a group of people must work towards when they sing chant is magical and challenging, requiring more concentration than the densest polyphony. The choir gathers at 6:30 to learn the Introit and the Anthem and go over the chant, while Fr. Travis lights candles below us. The rehearsal is fast-paced and challenging, but the effort of turning notes into a cohesive whole, and that whole into music, and placing that art in the larger context of the mysterious and sacred service of Compline is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things I’ve done as a choral singer or conductor.
As I’ve chosen the music I have become more intimately acquainted with the cycles of the church year and its music. In fact, without the constraints of the liturgical seasons, I don’t think I would ever be able to choose from all the beautiful sacred music composed over hundreds of years. I am so grateful to St. Barnabas that I have been able to participate in Compline over the past seven years, and for the role it has played in shaping me as a musician and as a person.