Maurice Duruflé, George Shearing, and J.S. Bach are some of the composers whose works will be played at a free lunchtime concert Wednesday at St. John's, Lafayette Square in honor of All Saints Day.
Brent Erstad, an organist and assistant director of music at St. John's who teaches at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, will play Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 537 (Bach), Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain (Duruflé), and There is a Happy Land (Shearing).
Also on the program are Elegy by George Thalben-Ball and Litanies by Jehan Alain. The performance is part of the church's First Wednesday concert series.
All Saints Day commemorates those who have died and have gone to heaven. It falls between Halloween and All Souls Day or Day of the Dead on November 2, the latter which recognizes those who have died and have not yet reached heaven.
All Saints often commemorates the lives of loved ones who have died in the past year, including those known to members at St. John's who, throughout the year, provide names of the deceased to the church where they are read aloud in services.
The history of All Saints' Day can be traced to Pope Boniface IV, who in 609 AD consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs. In the next century, All Saints was given officialdom on November 1 by Pope Gregory III.
All Saints' Day at a cemetery in Sanok, Poland, November 1, 2011/Silar, Creative Commons, Wikipedia
St. John's was founded in 1815 and is known to Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square. It's often called the “Church of the Presidents” since beginning with James Madison, who was president from 1809 to 1817, every president has attended services at the church. A plaque at the rear of St. John's designates the pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by the church during the Civil War.
Benjamin Latrobe, known as the "father of American architecture" and the architect of the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House porticos, designed St. John's Church in the form of a Greek cross.
The church bell, weighing almost 1,000 pounds, was cast by Paul Revere's son, Joseph, in August, 1822, and hung at St. John's that November where it has rung since. Wikipedia says two accounts report that whenever the bell rings on the occasion of the death of a notable person, six male ghosts appear at the president's pew at midnight and quickly disappear.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie
Dolley Madison, wife of President Madison, was baptized and confirmed at St. John's, according to the National Park Service, which calls the church "one of the few original remaining buildings left near Lafayette Park today."
Following tradition, President Donald J. Trump and his family began his presidency on the morning of January 20, 2017 with private services at St. John's.
For those on lunch break Wednesday, food trucks are located at Farragut Square, two blocks away.
Who: Brent Erstad, organist, playing an All Saints' Day concert
What: First Wednesday Concerts
When: 12:10 p.m., November 1, 2017
Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th, Washington, D.C. 20005
How much: No charge
Duration: About 35 minutes
Metro stations: McPherson Square (White House exit), Farragut North, or Farragut West
For more information: Contact Michael Lodico, St. John's director of music ministry and organist, 202-270-6265 or Michael.Lodico@stjohns-dc.org or 202-347-8766
Other First Wednesday concerts all beginning at 12:10 p.m. and lasting until 12:45 p.m. are:
December 6: Music of the Season by the Episcopal High School Chamber Choir
January 10, 2018: Music by French composers by Julie Vidrick Evans, organist
February 7: Soloists from St. John's Choir
March 7: Preludes and Fugues from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier by Mak Grgic, guitar, and Stephen Ackert, organ
April 4: The premiere of Paul Leavitt's Fanfare for Trumpet and Organ by Lisa Galoci, organist, and Chuck Seipp, trumpet
May 2: Music for Angels, including Craig Phillips' Archangel Suite by Michael Lodico, director of music and organist, St. John's
June 6: Music by Women Composers, including Margaret Sandresky's Dialogues for Organ and Strings by Ilono Kubiaczyk-Adler, organist, with the U.S. Air Force Strings