by Rachel Hunter
The energy in the First United Methodist Church of Gouverneur was palpable on Sunday, April 14 (Palm Sunday) as the Gouverneur community gathered to prepare their hearts for the Easter season by listening to “The Song Everlasting,” written and arranged by Joseph M. Martin, as performed by the Gouverneur Community Chorus and local instrumentalists, under the direction of Dr. Donald Schuessler Jr.
The Gouverneur Community Chorus has been practicing for seven weeks in preparation for the presentation of the sacred cantata based on early American songs. The Gouverneur Community Chorus consists of the following vocalists: Kristine Battersby, Karen Brungard, Mary Dixon, Linda Golja, Stephen Jadlocki, Franny Knott, Kathy Kopchinski, Paige McCrea, Marlene Morris, Sid Peters, the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick, Jenny Reddick, Chris Rediehs, Jay Rizza, Glenda Schuessler, Marla Shampine, Blane Shrewsberry, Harry Smithers, Isaiah Sochia, Sam Sochia, Sue Spilman, Max Tessmer, Gail Thomas, Donna Thorpe, Mark Tomford, Pastor Mike Tomford and Lily Towne. The instrumentalists were Lauren Correa, Violin; John Dixon, Percussion; Chris Hosmer, Cello; Beth Johnson, Piano; Laura Rediehs, Flute; Glenda Schuessler, Organ; Mike Welch, Guitar; and Jenelle Yeoman, Clarinet. The narrator was Henry Leader.
“The Song Everlasting” incorporated hymns, spirituals, and folksongs and weaved them into a narration that told the story of Christ’s life in three suites of anthems, entitled “Ministry,” “Humility,” and “Victory.” The exalted themes reverberated throughout the sanctuary, reminding all of the assurance and promise of Resurrection Sunday.
All had the chance to reflect on the scripture (Zephaniah 3:14-17) of preparation before the start of the cantata: “Sing People of Zion; shout aloud, children of God. Be glad and rejoice with all your heart. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will forgive you and rejoice over you with singing.”
All were warmly welcomed to the cantata by Dr. Schuessler, and a prayer was offered by the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Quick of the First United Methodist Church of Gouverneur.
The first song selection, “The Wondrous Story,” an American folk hymn, was performed by the Gouverneur Community Chorus with a sense of freedom that stirred the spirits of all those in attendance.
Narrator Henry Leader then introduced the “Ministry” song suite, which included the following:
The Gouverneur Community Chorus in a mournful, but steady sound offered “Songs Of The Wayfarer,” which, emphasized the woeful world in which Jesus was called to in his ministry.
“Come Unto Me” shared the burden-lifting nature of the Gospel as Jesus spread the message of peace in a weary world in need of healing. “Journey Of Hope And Promise” confidently told the story of the transformative power of God’s love. All those gathered then joined in a hymn, “I Will Arise And Go To Jesus.”
Narrator Leader then introduced the “Humility” song suite, include the following:
“Procession Of Praise,” was presented with a sense of regal confidence, reminding all those gathered about the tale of triumphant entry into Jerusalem when frenzied crowds took palm branches took palm branches from the trees and laid them before Jesus as He passed, shouting and singing, “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Song Of Humility,” a Shaker melody, was simply presented in a flowing rhythm that invited all to feel the heart of Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, found peace, and quietly gave Himself to His captors.
The Gouverneur Community Chorus then presented “Sacred Head, Wondrous Love,” based on American folk tunes, which carried the sense of heavy grief. The song brought to mind the intense suffering Jesus took as He was stripped, savagely beaten, and weighed down by a cruel cross as he made His journey atop Golgotha’s hill. Gouverneur community members then offered the hymn, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?”
Narrator Leader then introduced the “Victory” song suite, include the following:
The Gouverneur Community Chorus boldly performed, “Christ Is Risen,” which told the story of the Resurrection. It was followed by “The Sure Foundation” which was presented with great energy and enthusiasm, and incorporated “How Firm A Foundation” as they shared the confidence of faith in Jesus Christ, who taught all how live more abundant and free during His ministry on earth. All were then encouraged to go forth with joyful singing and praise, sharing the wondrous story of Christ in everlasting praise.
The Gouverneur community closed the cantata with the singing of the hymn, “I Will Sing The Wondrous Story.”
The audience stood to its feet and applauded the Gouverneur Community Chorus, instrumentalists, conductor, and narrator on a job well done. Many words of congratulations were also shared as the Gouverneur community went down to the church fellowship hall for light refreshments, offered by the church’s Rip-It exercise group.
In addition to the crowd amassed in the First United Methodist Church of Gouverneur for the cantata, dozens gathered online to watch the live video. It is now available to watch through the First UMC Gouverneur Facebook page.