The Diocese of Orange and Christ Cathedral will host an Interfaith Choral Festival and Prayer Service later this month as the yearlong celebration of the restoration of the Hazel Wright Organ continues.
Worshippers and choral members from all faith traditions are welcome and invited to gather at Christ Cathedral on Jan. 28, for the opportunity to give praise through music highlighted by the renowned Hazel Wright Organ.
“We wanted to have something on our celebratory series that would invite people, not just Catholics, to come celebrate with us,” said David Ball, organist and head of Music Ministry at Christ Cathedral.
Ball referenced the broad reach of the Hazel Wright Organ and how this specific instrument has had a long history of inspiring people from all faiths.
Built in 1982 in what was originally the Crystal Cathedral, the organ was heard around the world through Reverend Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power” broadcasts.
The fifth-largest pipe organ in the world, boasting more than 17,000 pipes, the Hazel Wright Organ underwent a 10-year, $3 million restoration process in Italy beginning in 2012 after the Diocese of Orange’s acquisition of the campus. Its return at the beginning of 2022 kicked off the “Year of Hazel” which has included a number of celebrations centered around the refurbished organ, including a special blessing ceremony conducted by Bishop Kevin Vann last June.
“One of the things that this campus inherited was the rich musical tradition of the Crystal Cathedral,” said Ball. “Catholic cathedrals are not only the center of Catholicism in the area, but they’re also a center of culture. And one of the best ways we can culturally give to the area is through this pipe organ and the music that will be made on it.”
Special guests at the Interfaith Choral Festival include guest conductor Kent Tritle who serves as director of music and cathedral organist at St. John the Divine in New York. Tritle is also the organist for the New York Philharmonic, which has a connection to the Hazel Wright Organ as the original construction of the organ included a 1962 Aeolian-Skinner organ from Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.
He will be joined by St. John the Divine Associate Organist Daniel Ficarri whose piece “Fanfare-Introduction in D” was the first music played on the Hazel Wright Organ in February 2022 after its refurbishment was complete.
St. John the Divine is an Episcopal cathedral, one of several faith groups outside of Catholicism that will be represented at the event. Fr. Ed Becker, who serves as Head of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Diocese of Orange, acknowledged the emphasis on the interfaith aspect of this prayer service.
“It is Christ himself who indicates the importance of constantly reaching out and trying to find unity, even just among Christians,” said Fr. Becker. “But Jesus in his ministry also made clear that he wanted his Christian community to constantly be reaching out to all of humanity. And that would include all religious groups.”
While a great deal of diversity exists across musical styles of various faiths, both Fr. Becker and Ball see music and worship as a common thread that brings all worshippers together. As such, event organizers are coordinating music selections that celebrate the different faiths represented.
“Faith traditions have a lot of different expressions of music, but there is unity in the love of music in general that we can share,” said Fr. Becker. “Our interfaith partners appreciate the organ and choir style of music worship, even if that’s not the form of music that they use in their own worship. We can definitely find a lot of music that reaches beyond Christianity to all of God’s people.”
As the Hazel Wright Organ continues to bring people together through music and worship, both Fr. Becker and Ball are looking forward to several aspects of the Interfaith Choral Festival and Prayer Service, including hearing the combined choirs and the prayerful contributions of local interfaith leaders and partners as they amplify the music shared at the event.
“It will be an encouragement for us,” said Fr. Becker. “Certainly one of the ways that we are diverse in all the different religious communities is in how we worship. And that includes the role of music. But to come together in an increasingly secular world and recognize that we’re all God’s sons and daughters and that we’re in this together…I think it’s just going to be an awesome experience. God is not dead nor is praise and worship of Him among all of his diverse beings. I think event is really going to accentuate that.”
For more information on the Interfaith Choral Festival and Prayer Service, visit www.christcathedralmusic.org/yearofhazel