During recent renovations, some cassette tapes were unearthed. Long forgotten, these tapes held memories of the church's history.
The 150th Anniversary Event
One cassette tape was simply marked "November 16th, Year ? -- Many members speaking." It appears to be a recording of an assembly to launch the History Committee. This committee was tasked with collecting and writing OPC's history for the then up coming 150th Anniversary.
OPC's 150th Anniversary was in 1995. So this kick-off event was probably held on November 16th, 1994. The congregation was invited to share stories of the church. And it appears that some of the older members were specifically asked to speak at the event.
The sound quality is uneven, despite a digital remastering. But the audio is clear enough to understand what's being said.
This was recorded on cassette tape, so the audio start and stop abruptly. There could be a second cassette tape that recorded the end of the event. But it hasn't been found (if it exists at all).
Side One - Atwell Somerville
Atwell Somerville was the church's self-appointed historian. As you can hear, he thoroughly researched the church's history, and knows it well. He's speaking without notes. Atwell relates the origins and history of the church from the 1700s through the end of the Civil War.
Side Two - Congregation Memories
Jean Berkman serves as MC for the assembly. Below is a list of the members who spoke and where they appear in the recording.
0:00 Louise Lord shares her story growing up in the church. Her parents joined in 1922, and Louise joined at age 12. Her great, great, grandfather was a Presbyterian missionary from Scotland who baptized Andrew Jackson.
7:32 Jean Berkman reads a letter from Jackie Maddex. She related life in the church during the Second World War.
9:07 Emma Francis Bartley relates her time in the church. Her family moved to Orange and joined OPC in 1921. She tells the story of the cattle sales at the Virginia Tech Reserch Center. The Women of the Church sold food and refreshments at the sales, held five times a year. The money helped pay off the church's mortgage.
12:51 Dan Sale talks about how the church expanded from the corner, replacing three homes over several decades.
14:48 Jean Berkman reads excerpts from a letter written by Jack Maddox. He relates how the church was run in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
17:15 Russell Bailey talks about his experience at OPC. He joined the church in 1945. He talks about Rev. Dick Taylor. Bailey was an architect, and so was Rev. Taylor before turning to ministry.
20:31 Betty Bailey tells the story of how the church embraced their special needs child, and helped her become a member in the 1950s.
22:33 Richard Sanford reads excerpts from his mother's recollection of the church. The tape runs out before he can get to the substance of the letter.
Sunday, July 31, Ryder Rose was officially awarded the Hebrance Scholarship for 2023. The Hebrance Fund was established to support education within and without the OPC family.
Ryder is the son of Melanie Rose. Melanie, though not a member, was the church office administrator for a number of years. She still continues to serve the church, keeping financial records and printing the Sunday bulletin.
Melanie regularly attended services at OPC, and our congregation watched Ryder and his sister Sierra grow up over the years.
Ryder's application letter greatly impressed the Session. And OPC is proud to help this young man's continuing education with this scholarship.
- Ralph Graves
Communications Team Leader
Wednesday, June 21, 2023 the Dolley Madison Garden Club hosted a state-wide lily show. And they did it in the sanctuary of Orange Presbyterian Church.
Although it poured rain most of the afternoon, a steady stream of visitors poured in and out of the building. A cloudburst or two couldn't keep these floral enthusiasts away!
The displays were stunningly beautiful. And the sanctuary was filled with the most wonderful fragrance. It will be a few years before the Dolley Madison Garden Club will need to host the show again. But when they do, we hope they come back!
Sunday, June 25 was Denny Burnette's birthday. OPC marked the occasion with a special surprise reception after worship.
The weather cooperated, and everyone had a good time. We even sang "Happy Birthday" in four-part harmony!
In the church narthex is a small tin communion plate. It sits next to the 1938 youth group song book. Both were recently rediscovered, tucked away among the church's archives.
The book was easy to research. But this communion plate remains something of a mystery.
It was a mass-produced item. The floral designs were stamped into the metal, and the lip was machine-rolled.
In the middle is an inscription, which could possibly have been hand-stamped.
It's seen some hard use. The rim is dented, and the patina suggests frequent handling.
This little communion plate is a part of OPC's history. Albeit it's one with more questions than answers.
Was this a presentation piece to (or from) the Sunday School? Was the plate used for communion at Youth Group gatherings or just for Sunday School events? Was it ever used in regular Sunday worship?
We can only speculate. But it's good to have this tactile piece of history available once again.
If you have an opportunity, pick up the plate. And imagine all the hands that held it before you.
Youth and adults from over a century ago used this humble tin plate to pass the bread. They said the same words and did the same actions we do today in worship for communion.
This plate is not just a historic curiosity. It's a reminder of the continuity of this church's faith over the past 175+ years.
In our narthex is a little piece of history. It’s a copy of “Junior Living and Songs.” OPC's youth groups sang from this 1938 songbook right before the Second World War. The book is well-used, and it’s a cultural artifact.
The Presbyterian Committee of Publication
The book’s original copyright is 1927 by the Presbyterian Committee of Publication. This organization started in 1862, after the start of the Civil War.
The Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) split over the issue of slavery. Southern Presbyterians established a separate denomination. It was the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA).
The PCCSA was virtually identical to the PCUSA. But they had to build new support organizations. One such was the Presbyterian Committee of Publication, established in Richmond, Virginia. This was the publishing arm of the PCCSA.
After the war, PCCSA renamed itself the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS). It remained separate from the PCUSA. The Committee on Publication printed a variety of materials.
Sunday School periodicals, instruction materials, books, hymnals, and songbooks poured out of Richmond. “Junior Living and Songs” was one such publication.
The Assembly Training School
In 1914, the PCUS established the General Assembly’s Training School for Lay Workers (ATS). The original location was at No. 6-8, North Sixth Street in Richmond. The school trained men and women entering the field of Christian education. It included departments on the English Bible, Christian Doctrine, Missions and Church History, and Christian Sociology.
Future youth leaders could study Sunday School Pedagogy and Young People’s Work, Physical Education, and Music. For those wanting to serve in the community, there were departments of Elementary Medicine and Hygiene, and Domestic Science and Arts.
ATS became the Presbyterian School for Christian Education in 1959. PCUS reunited with PCUSA in 1983. And in 1997 the school became part of Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Elizabeth McE. Shields
Elizabeth McEwen Shields. edited “Junior Living and Songs." She was the Lecturer on Sunday School Pedagogy at ATL. Shields also served on the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education. She was the Director of Children’s Work.
Shields joined the faculty when the school was established. And remained there until her retirement in 1950.Besides her work ATL she was also a hymn-writer. Shields is credited with over 35 hymns for children.
Shields had a clear idea of what a collection of songs for youth should be. In the preface, she lists her criteria for selecting the songs:
Are the words good: have they literary value?
Have the words spiritual value?
Can Junior boys and girls mean the words?
Is the music good?
Do the words suit the music?
Will Junior boys and girls like this song?
Shields was aware that most of the PCUS churches weren’t in big cities such as Richmond. They were scattered throughout the rural South, with small congregations and limited budgets.
In the preface, she wrote that this book responded to small churches’ requests. They had asked to "give us one book that will contain enough songs for use in the various Church School sessions -- Sunday, week-day, and vacation sessions and Junior societies."
From PCCSA, through ATS, to PCUS
The copy in our narthex looks well-used. I think Professor Shields would be pleased. Next time you come to church, take a moment to leaf through its pages. And hold a piece of history in your hands.
- Ralph Graves
Trinity Sunday, June 4, 2023, a select choir will sing Mozart's "Ave verum corpus" during worship. But what is this piece, and what makes it appropriate for a worship service?
It's good to have friends
Anton Stoll was the organist at St. Stephen in Baden bei Wein. This was a small spa town in the 1790s, just outside of Vienna.
Constanza Mozart often went to the spa for health treatments. As did her husband, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. over time, Mozart and Stoll became friends.
In 1791 Constanza returned to the spa, and Mozart -- in the midst of writing "The Magic Flute" joined her. He reconnected with his friend Stoll, and decided to help him out.
During his short stay Mozart tossed off a motet (sacred song). "Ave verum coprus" was a gift to Stoll. No biggie, just a little something extra for his friend to use during the upcoming Feast of Corpus Christi.
The motet's since become a standard part of the choral repertoire.
Words have meaning -- especially Latin ones
"Ave verum corpus" is a Latin liturgical text. It's been in use by the Roman Catholic Church since the 14th Century. It's sung during the serving of communion.
The text translates:
Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
truly suffered, sacrificed on the cross for mankind,
from whose pierced side water and blood flowed:
Be for us a foretaste of the Heavenly banquet in the trial of death!
O sweet Jesus, O holy Jesus,
O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.
Why are we hearing this on Trinity Sunday?
Mozart wrote the motet for the Feast of Corpus Christi service. The feast day entered the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical calendar in 1264, on the recommendation of Thomas Aquinas.
"Corpus Christi" translates as the "Body of Christ." The service is a meditation on both the physical and spiritual aspects of Jesus -- the two parts of the body of Christ. These are represented in the elements of communion with the bread and the cup.
Early Protestant churches celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi. (Some denominations still do,) The feast day is the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Since we don't celebrate this day, Trinity Sunday makes the most sense liturgically.
What can I expect to hear?
Mozart is unfailingly tuneful. So be careful -- you may find yourself humming along with the music. Mozart's setting of the text is quite straightforward. You won't hear any complex counterpoint as you would with Bach. And although the text is Medieval, it's setting is contemporary (to the 18th Century).
So you'll hear cleary, transparent harmonies, mostly made up of simple chords. But of course, in Mozart, simplicity can be deceptive. He subtly colors the text, especially the last three lines. It's but one of the touches that rises this motet above the ordinary.
- Ralph Graves
OPC Communications Team Leader
Program Director, CharlottesvilleClassical.org
Graduations mark major milestones. Friday, May 19, 2023 the four-year-old class of Orange Presbyterian Weekday School graduated. And it was -- as it has always been -- a major milestone.
Many of these children became friends and classmates attending the three-year-old class. And next year, they will go their separate ways. The children will be attending different elementary schools in the county. Some will go to private schools, and some will be home schooled.
Hopefully the friendships formed over the past two years will remain strong. We know it has for many past OPWS graduates!
One hundred and thirty-two people gathered to see these youngsters graduate. Family, friends, church members, and OPWS staff were there to wish them well.
It was a short (and sweet) ceremony that ended with a OPWS tradition -- the Friday dance party!
And after all that dancing, the children and adults spilled out into the playground area. Time for refreshments, serious play, and fun.
Good luck to the class of 2023! God bless you, one and all.
Sunday, April 30, 2023 was a very special date. The Orange Presbyterian Weekday School students, parents, and staff participated in Sunday worship.
As pastor Denny Burnette pointed out, "our church does not simply have a preschool. The preschool is an integral part of our church. A very important part of our church’s ministry, and we are a family together.”
To prove his point, Denny asked current students and parents to raise their hands. Then he asked any former students to raise their hands. Then he asked any who had children or other family members attend OPWS to raise their hands.
There were ninety people in the sanctuary. Virtually every hand was in the air.
After the service, there was a reception for friends and families. Denny promises this won't be the last OPWS Sunday. Now that's something to look forward to!
- Ralph Graves
Communications Team Leader
Garth Newel Piano Quartet
Sunday, April 16, 2023
Orange Presbyterian Church
Gustav Mahler: Piano Quartet in A minor
David Biedenbender: Red Vesper
Johannes Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 26
The Garth Newel Piano Quartet performed an engaging program at Orange Presbyterian Church. These are world-class musicians, so of course the playing was at the highest level.
A pleasant surprise was the church's acoustics. The sanctuary's brick wall would seem a detraction. Audio waves bouncing off of hard surfaces tend to sound harsh. But the acoustics proved ideal for chamber music. The bricks' rough surfaces slightly diffused the sound, giving it more warmth.
Plus, the ambiance of the space allowed the sound to travel. Reverberations were audible enough to further smooth the sound. But they weren't loud enough to muddy it.
The sanctuary's Andrews Steinway piano received a workout. And it was up to the task. Jeannette Fang played the instrument with a full range of expression. She could make it whisper beautiful melodies or thunder massive chords with authority (and everything in between).
The ensemble sound of the quartet was first-rate. These musicians know each other well and play with one accord. They embodied the highest ideal of chamber music. That is, to make the music seem like a spontaneous conversation between friends.
The first half of the program featured a student work by Gustav Mahler. Composed in 1876, the Piano Quartet in A minor is a single-movement torso. Mahler abandoned the piece after completing just the first movement.
Stylistically, the music embodied the emotional excess of the late-Romantic era. And so did the quartet in their performance.
First violinist Teresa Ling played with a rich, dark tone that oozed emotional drama (or was that dramatic emotion?). The ensemble emphasized Mahler's melodic motifs each time they appeared. This helped guide the audience through this unfamiliar work. The power of the tutti unison at the end was thrilling to experience.
Next was a short work by American composer David Biedenbender. Red Vesper evoked a spiritual moment in the woods. In this composition, silence was as important as sound. Biedenbender used both effectively.
Most impressive were the rock-steady harmonics played by the strings. They're not easy to play. Yet the tones never wavered. And all three instruments were perfectly in tune with each other.
Johannes Brahms' Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 26 made up the second half of the program. Brahms completed the second of his three piano quartets in 1861 when he was 27.
As violist Fitz Gary pointed out in the introduction, the work is a mix of influences -- Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Bach. Yet Brahms brings it all together in a cohesive whole lasting 50 minutes.
Here the Garth Newel Piano Quartet really shone. They played the slow second movement with such delicate beauty that applause broke out at the end. It wasn't a breach of concert etiquette -- rather. it was a spontaneous response to the music. The performance was just that good.
The quartet had a warm yet bright sound throughout the piece. And when the finale kicked in, the musicians cut loose. The finish was furiously fast and joyful.
It was an exceptional afternoon of music-making. As the eighty-one people in the audience can enthusiastically attest.
- Ralph Graves
Program Director, CharlottesvilleClassical.org, host of "Classical Sunrise" on WTJU.net
OPC Communications Team Leader