The interior of the new chapel. Sheila Butler | Courtesy

With the construction of Christ Chapel, Hillsdale College is developing a sacred music program.

The program will allow students to study the multi-denominational facets within sacred music, though the exact capacity of the program as a major, minor, or concentration has yet to be decided. Within the chapel, plans include new music services such as the traditional Anglican Evensong.

“The chapel, from pretty much day one of planning, has been planned as a concert venue for the orchestra and choirs,” music department chairman James Holleman said. “So there’s going to be a lot of music in the building.”

With the chapel scheduled to open in 2019, College President Larry Arnn, Provost David Whalen, Chaplain Adam Rick, and Holleman are still discussing the specifics of the program.

“Right now, my plan is to make sure we hit the ground running with orchestra, choir, and some religious musical services when we open the doors of the chapel,” Holleman said. “That then gives us time to decide what direction we want to go in for the sacred music program, whether it’s a major or a minor or a concentration within the music major.”

Since the project’s beginning, music has played a large role in determining the design and use of the chapel, Arnn said.

“At last count, more than 30 percent of our students are involved in music,” Arnn said in an email. “The chapel is designed to be the place for their major performances. It being a chapel, having sacred music there is obviously good. Much of the music we sing and play now is sacred music.”

In addition to the main music performances, new services, specifically the Anglican form of Evensong, will be a consistent part of the new chapel.

“Dr. Arnn’s vision is to have sacred music in the chapel,” Holleman said. “That can come in various forms. His Anglican tradition deals with Evensong, which is a pretty spelled-out service, but the music can change. He would like to have Evensong at regular intervals in the building.”

Rick has experience with the Anglican traditional Evensong both as an Anglican clergyman and as a chorister himself.

“Choral Evensong is a sung version of the Anglican service Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, and it consists of Psalms, two Scripture lessons, and musical responses, and prayers,” Rick said in an email. “The service has some parallels to the Roman Catholic service of Evening Prayer or ‘Vespers.’ While technically Anglican, the scriptural basis of the service would make it accessible to anyone from any Christian denomination. You do not need to be an Anglican to enter into the service.”

The installation of the sacred music program extends the mission of Hillsdale within the Christian mindset of the college.

“The tradition of sacred music is deep and wide and a perfect expression of intelligent piety, the perpetuation of which is more than a little important here,” Whalen said in an email.

Despite the plans for the music program still in their beginning stages, Holleman said he is committed to filling the chapel with music as soon as possible.

“We are going to service the college and the community with music from day one,” Holleman said.