Faith and Music Mingle at Compline

Photo Courtesy of Bryce Wachtell

Photo Courtesy of Bryce Wachtell

Students and faculty alike gathered in the Chapel on Sunday, April 24 during study break to observe the Christian service of Compline. Compline is the last service of the day in the Christian liturgical hours, and this particular Compline was held by Choral Director Ms. Alysoun Kegel and Reverend Ally Brundige and was based on the Anglican tradition.

According to Ms. Kegel, the pieces performed consisted of prayers, psalms, and hymns. “We did a hymn that was based on an ancient sequence that could have been from around 1000 or 1100 AD,” she said. The repertoire for the Compline included both monophonies (Gregorian chants that are sung in unison) and polyphonies (which originated much later in the 15th century.)The polyphonies included “Christ qui lux est et Dies” by Thomas Tallis, “In Manus Tua” by Robert Parsons, and “Salve Regina” by Orlande de Lassus.

This service was not the first one of its kind. In fact, there was another Compline service held in the winter as a part of an Arts Concentration project. Last term, Rebecca Rubright ’17 and Katharine Li ’17 approached Ms. Kegel and expressed their desire to create more sacred music in addition to the Winter Vocal Festival. Ultimately, the two girls were able to incorporate the Compline service into the Arts Concentration Program and fulfill their choral credits, a required field of study.

When asked about her inspiration to hold another Compline service, Ms. Kegel cited her experiences at her alma mater, Phillips Exeter Academy: “Exeter had an evening prayer that occurred every Tuesday. You could go to the chapel for a candlelit service. I told Reverend Brundige about it, and she thought that this would be a good service to do here,” says Ms. Kegel.

Ms. Mary Pashley, Head of Community Service, who also participated in the event, said, “This is my final year at Choate, and I wanted to hear our choral director Alysoun Kegel sing. Her voice was incredible, especially in a place where the acoustics are fabulous.” Ms. Pashley goes on to describe her personal connection with the service: “When I was a student in college, I would go every Sunday night to mass. We would have a Compline service at the end of every mass, so for me, when thinking about going to this one, I remembered back to those days and how valuable it was for me to have that quiet time. I felt like a college kid again and it was wonderful to sit in the chapel and to think that the experience was the same when I was 55 and when I was 20. I forgot how magical those moments were.”

Mr. Cyrus Cook, an audience member, also reflected on his experiences as a student and how this spurred his interest in Gregorian music: “My love for these kinds of services probably has some connection with my own past. I’ve always liked things like Gregorian chants; I find them very meditative. One of the best things I liked when I was in boarding school myself was vesper services. I find it spiritual and relaxing.”

Although he is not an active Christian, Mr. Cook said, “There’s a mystery to religion that I like and I find beautiful, and I think that music is one of the best ways to capture things that are sacred and much harder to put into words.”

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