Guest column: Beatitudes will be feature of Saturday celebration, concert
The Aspen Chapel has beautiful and unique stained glass windows.
The windows were designed by a French designer named Jean Jacques Duval. They symbolize “The Beatitudes,” which are initial words expressed by Jesus found in the “Sermon on the Mount” from the Gospel of Matthew.
The theme of the Beatitudes was selected because of its universal nature and message within an ecumenical and interfaith Chapel. For example, one of the essential windows expresses, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
Biblical historians have suspected that there have been supplemental additions to the writings of the Gospels as the decades passed after the death of Jesus, but typically concur that the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes were some of the original and authentic words of Jesus recorded at the time. Part of the purpose of the Aspen Chapel is to both discover the real origins of faith and then to redefine spiritual values for a contemporary world. The contemporary beatitude windows reflecting the original words of Jesus are in perfect harmony with one of the essential purposes of the Chapel.
Speaking of harmony, it is unusual for a small chapel to have a large pipe organ within its sanctuary. Initially, a chapel was a small place of worship adjacent to a larger cathedral and typically did not have any organ or piano. Choirs who sang in these chapels did so without instrumentation and their music became known from the French word “A Cappella.”
As this Aspen Chapel of Peace was being planned, a woman from Chicago named Almira Snyder read about such plans in the Rocky Mountain News in 1968. She and her husband, Kenneth, had a vacation home on McClain Flats in Aspen. Once Kenneth retired as the Chief Operating Officer of Kraft Industries and moved to Aspen, Almira asked if the Chapel would like a pipe organ that was in their home in Kenilworth, providing she could come and play it anytime. Mrs. Snyder had a Master’s Degree from Northwestern and had been teaching organ there. The trustees of the Chapel were thrilled and plans were modified to install this large 19 rank Moeller pipe organ. Almira would often play her pipe organ, now at the Chapel, on Sunday mornings for anyone who would like to come and listen. She also became a volunteer director of the Chapel from 1972 to 1975.
Today, this exceptional pipe organ has been enhanced with additional ranks of pipes and sound stops and now is performed by an equally exceptional organist named Susan Nicholson who has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree of Organ Performance from the Julliard School of Music. Susan has been the Director of Music at the Chapel and has provided and coordinated a wide variety of instrumental and vocal performances since 1986.
On Saturday at 4 p.m., in celebration of the Chapel’s 50th anniversary, the stained glass windows and the pipe organ and the Chapel Choir will all come together in a musical and artistic synergy on the most relevant theme of the Beatitudes. Introductions will be given by Nicholas Vesey, Chaplain and Shelly Merriam, Chapel Historian. The words of the Beatitudes will be recited by myself in both English and the original spoken language of Jesus, Aramaic. Artists from the Chapel Gallery will elucidate the renderings of the stained glass windows. This will all be highlighted with a concert on the Beatitude theme by composers Messiaen, Hawes and Haas and performed by Susan Nicholson, David Dyer, Victor Huls, and the Chapel Choir. It will be a “once-in-a-50-year” experience.
Aspen Chapel is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and Chaplain Emeritus Gregg Anderson is writing columns monthly in 2019.