WAHPETON — It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before Matthew Camp would discover the cloister chapel as an acoustically satisfying place to practice his songs.
But at some point, he began stealing away from his temporary home on the grounds of the Carmel of Mary Monastery — where the parents of his wife, Therese, work as caretakers — to the nearby chapel to sing a few refrains in a space that seemed ideal.
Camp figured the sisters were beyond earshot, but one evening, Sister Margaret Mary, a musician herself, happened to hear an angelic melody emanating from the chapel, and it struck her.
“He would come to the chapel to practice while we were at supper,” she says, “and I just happened to come by one day and heard him singing, and thought, ‘Well, that is beautiful!'”
Camp, 26, who often plays and sings for the 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. John’s Church in Wahpeton, will perform his original songs — which he’s compiled into an album — on two separate occasions; tomorrow and next weekend.
The events, at the church and convent, will focus on the pre-Christmas season of Advent.
Camp says though he’s always appreciated how liturgical music can move the soul, he feels some hymns aren’t as “gripping and compelling” as they could be.
“I wanted to write some music that tells a story that isn’t told that often; in this case, the story of Advent,” he says. “We have a lot of Christmas music, but there’s a season that comes before that, too.”
Therese — who agrees there’s a musical gap between now and Christmas that needs filling — says she’s excited for others to hear her husband perform, since “music comes so naturally to him, and it’s so enjoyable to experience.”
She’s also eager for their unborn child to hear it. “I’m waiting for the baby to start dancing to his music,” she says.
Rev. Dale Lagodinski, St. John’s pastor, says Camp’s composition tells the whole story of preparing for the coming of the Lord. “It will be a wonderful afternoon of the inauguration of the great season of Advent,” he says.
He explains that in these four weeks leading up to Christmas, we recall our need for repentance, but with “a hint of joy in anticipation” of the Lord’s birth at Bethlehem.
Those who attend the St. John’s performance won’t see Christmas sparkles just yet, he adds; no poinsettias or Christmas lights will adorn the sanctuary. But, “there will be a huge Jesse tree, a long tradition of the Church.”
“We remember God’s promise that he’d send a savior, and all (the prophecies of the Messiah) throughout the season of Advent,” he says, with each Sunday preparing us, including the first week’s message: “Stay awake! Be ready!”
Camp’s Advent songs “capture the drama of creation, the fall and the great promises of the coming of the Messiah,” Lagodinski says. “Advent tells why we have Christmas in the first place, and it’s a powerful way of getting into the proper mood of really trying to be in our best frame to celebrate the Lord on Christmas Day.”
If You Go:
What: Singer and pianist Matthew Camp to perform his original album, “The Story of Advent”
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 3, and 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 10
Where: Dec. 3: St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Wahpeton, 115 2nd St. N., Wahpeton; Dec. 10: Carmel of Mary Monastery, 17765 78th St. SE, Wahpeton
Cost: Freewill donation; CDs of “The Story of Advent” also will be available for purchase at the concert.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Dec. 2, 2017.]