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St. Thomas More Society presents first musical lecture ‘Let’s Pray Two!’ with Philip WJ Stopford on Nov. 16

Composer Philip WJ Stopford, a British composer who is currently director of music at Christ Church in Bronxville, N.Y.

St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington is holding its first ever musical lecture.

The musical “Let’s Pray Two!” will be Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Helena’s Church in Wilmington. The musical conversation will host renowned composer Philip WJ Stopford, a British composer who is currently director of music at Christ Church in Bronxville, N.Y.

Stopford is known for his contemporary settings of traditional Latin and English prayers and hymns. His relationship with the church has been a long one, having started his daily worship at age 7. His love of church music progressed when he became a chorister at Westminster Abbey.

“It led me to be the composer I am today,” Stopford said in a telephone interview.

Stopford continues to be involved in leading worships and concerts, such as this one, across the world. He said his main passion is creating new works hoping to inspire those around him. During the lecture, Stopford will talk about his experience and explain how being a chorister led him to be the composer he is today.

Richard Kirk, St. Thomas More Society’s first local president, said “lectures bring serious speakers to Delaware which helps lift a certain level of thought in the public.”

This year will bring a different aspect to these lectures, Kirk said, after he raised the idea of adding a musical element to St. Thomas More Society’s annual tradition. It will be presented as part of the Archbishop Edmond J. Fitzmaurice lecture series.

St. Thomas More Society is made up of a collection of attorneys of various faiths who are committed to the examples of Saint Thomas More. The local group was founded in 1988 with approximately 100 members, with the society growing greatly. Each member is committed to promoting high ethical principles and assisting in the spiritual growth of its members. The society established annual traditions such as the Red Mass, St. Thomas More Award, and its annual dinner. Also, the group developed a lecture series as its major service activity.

The society’s first chaplain and founder, Msgr. Paul J. Taggart, recalled the work of Archbishop Edmond J. Fitzmaurice, the fourth bishop of Wilmington. Fitzmaurice believed in spreading the faith and through his efforts he brought many speakers to the Diocese oWilmington to address topics of special importance to Catholics. To continue this tradition, St. Thomas More Society decided that its main service would be giving lectures and the tradition started thirty years ago and has been growing within the community.

Why add music to the lectures?

“Music has existed as worship forever,” Kirk said.

He said adding a musical element to the traditional lectures provides a new level of understanding and thought. Using music is a powerful way to pray has been done for hundreds of years, Kirk said.

In this musical lecture, the audience will be able to experience a choral demonstration by four choirs. These choirs will include St. Helena’s Church Choir, Center City Chorale, Choir School of Delaware, and St. Andrew’s Andrean Ensemble. St. Helena’s Church Choir is an adult choir that ranges from all ages. The Choir School of Delaware is a mixture of both adults and children from the greater Wilmington area. The Center City Chorale is a community choir of Wilmington. St. Andrew’s Andrean Ensemble is made up of all ages that go to Saint Andrew School, an Episcopal school in Middletown.

Each choral demonstration will be two songs that will be approximately three minutes long. Along with this demonstration, the musical will feature an open rehearsal and a performance conducted by Stopford of his stirring anthem, “O How Glorious Is the Kingdom.” This anthem took Stopford a couple days to compose and over a week to orchestrate. During this eight-minute performance, 120 singers will take part.

The lecture is interspersed with music during the event. This is when questions will be asked. Stopford will talk about his writing style and discuss how and why he composes his music. He said his principal goal is to talk about what he intends from his music. By giving this musical lecture, he said it allows the audience to hear the music but also to learn about it.

All are welcome to come and admission is free. For more information call (302) 753-5312.