Passion Play at St. Casimir ‘lovely way to honor God’

| March 19, 2015 | 0 Comments
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El Pinito Market — Carniceria — Abarrotes, a butcher shop and grocery store, is just up Forest Street from St. Casimir Church on St. Paul’s east side.

Across Maryland Avenue you’ll find Asian Auto Tech, and on Arcade a short walk away is Vogel’s Lounge, the venerable watering h Holy Stairs ole on Arcade Street.

South of St. Casimir a block or two on Forest is Sab Zoo Trading.

The neighborhood Burger King competes with several taquerias.

It’s that kind of ethnic diversity in the Payne-Phalen area that surrounds St. Casimir and its Polish tradition, and why hymns from a variety of cultures will ring out at St. Casimir Palm Sunday afternoon.

Bob Hindel’s piano pours over the empty pews at St. Casimir on a March Saturday morning as the Cantabile chamber singers begin to gather for the first rehearsal of “The King of Love: A Musical Passion Play,” which they will perform at the church at 3 p.m. March 29.

Members of the ensemble are veterans who sing at several local parishes, and they’ve worked with Hindel before. They have the voices, to be sure, but they don’t usually sing in Polish or Spanish.

Hindel, who arranged all the music, first goes through the pronunciation of the words to “Bogurodzica,” a medieval hymn to the mother of God, the oldest hymn in the Polish language.

He pronounces each word, and the ensemble repeats it. Then they do it again.

After an initial run-through with just piano and voice, Hindel explains what they are singing.

The song is a plea to Mary to intercede so that Jesus will,

Listen to the prayer we say,

For what we ask, give us today:

Life on earth free of vice;

After life: paradise!

Musicians join Hindel’s piano now — flute, oboe and and the deep vibrations of electric bass guitar — then it’s on to the portion of the Passion in Spanish.

Again the group hears the pronunciation, sings the hymn, and Hindel explains what they are singing.

Translated into English, the closing lines of the Spanish hymn capture the essence of this multi-language production:

Your song is my song, the song of everyone is my song.

This year, blending in with the Polish and Hispanic hymns, will be Hmong voices and songs from the Karen community that worships at St. Casimir.

“That’s the demographic in our area,” said Hindel, a composer and pianist who plays professionally for groups such as the Classical Ballet Academy.

“You get a feeling of the different culture when you play and sing their music,” he said. “The hymns in the Passion Play are all songs of praise to Jesus because through his passion and death he saved our souls.”

Hindel, who volunteers his piano skills at St. Casimir’s daily Mass, said the members of Cantabile seem to enjoy learning pieces in other languages.”

“The over-arching theme of what our ensemble does is ‘Imago Dei’ — the image of God,” he noted. “We try to draw that out of those cultures — how they praise God and the dignity of humanity.”

The King of Love: A Musical Passion Play Rehearsal

Reaches out to all

Emilia Godinez expects the church to be filled again for the Passion Play this year.

A St. Casimir parishioner whose heritage is Mexican, Godinez is the narrator for the production. She gets excited talking about the “raw beauty” of the work, as she put it.

“It takes us to a place above and beyond,” Godinez said. “It speaks about the depth and power of God that reaches out to every person and culture.

“All of them have found ways to honor their God, so why not incorporate their music into the Passion,” she said.

Voices and instruments powered over the walls of St. Casimir as the rehearsal went on, a sadness and foreboding in the music making the passion of Jesus Christ almost palpable.

“It’s a lovely way to honor God on Palm Sunday,” Godinez added.

St. Casimir Church is located at 929 E. Jessamine Ave., St. Paul. Admission is free; donations to St. Casimir Parish accepted. Refreshments will follow the performance.

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