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An Interfaith Celebration of Love and Collaboration

Photo by Josh Floyd

By Judith Geary

As the Jewish high holy days drew to a close, the Temple of the High Country rang with the voices of an interfaith choir comprised of members of the Temple choir and those of St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church. The evening of September 24 marked the most holy night of the Jewish year, also known as Kol Nidre, the name of the prayer sung in Jewish synagogues around the world at the beginning of the service on the eve of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement.) The interfaith nature of this service is an expression of the collaboration of these two faith communities in making the High Country a better place for everyone.

The high holy days in the Jewish calendar are from Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and the days between. It’s a time for introspection. One is asked to reflect upon where they need to make changes to hit the mark of the well-led life. It’s about the trifecta of forgiveness: apologizing, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, so to start the new year with a clean slate. Hitting the mark embraces the concept of tzedakah, which must include integrity, humility, thoughtfulness, open-mindedness, love of fellow beings, vision for the future, and a sense of justice. 

Photo by Josh Floyd

Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer and Neal and Nancy Schaffel recently endowed an Appal Pie Scholarship in honor of Temple choir leader Tyler Dellaperute, an ASU graduate. Dean James Douthit and his wife Kathry attended the service with pride as Tyler is now a faculty member of the Hayes School of Music. The Schaefers have also donated to the Hayes School of music in honor of Jordan Hallmark, son of Joanne Hallmark, a driving force in creating the interfaith collaboration between the Temple and St. Mary’s church. 

Of the service, Joanne Hallmark says, “I was the communicator with the St. Mary’s choir.  Members have participated for the last several years, but this time we had about 15. We love the partnership we have with the members at the temple. We’re very honored to be included. We’re all on the same team.”

Father Andrew Hege says, “In a world where so much separates us, it is such a privilege to be led in worship by the music of the choirs. To sit together and receive the warmth of the hospitality of the Temple members, such a special evening.” Father Hage was an honored guest, with the mayor and other dignitaries, who lit a Hanukkah candle at the Jones House during the holidays.

One of the signature pieces regularly performed by St. Mary’s choir as they have toured the world is the Hebrew, Yih’yu L’Ratzon, by Ernest Bloch. For this service, the St. Mary’s choir members practiced with the Temple choir to perform the traditional music for the service. 

Photo by Josh Floyd
Photo by Josh Floyd

Temple choir director and pianist Tyler Dellaperute says the High Holiday music continues to improve each year. “We were able to pull off the collaboration with only one rehearsal, largely due to the excellent musicianship of the St. Mary’s choir.” One song that is particularly impactful to him is the prayer for world peace, Oseh Shalom. The text reads, “May the one who creates peace on high bring peace to us and to all Israel and all who dwell on the earth.” Tyler says, “The interfaith choir felt to me like a microcosm of Oseh Shalom. It was a very moving experience to see this prayer put into action.”

Linda Larsen, past choir director for Appalachian Chorale, who led the Temple choir for the first six year, attended the service. She says, “It was inspiring to come back as a guest. It was so moving.”

Rabbi Alty Weinreb characterizes the service this way, “The sounds coming from both choirs were angelic. I could swear at one point we were levitating. Praying in solidarity with members of the St. Mary of the Hills Church Choir, Father Hege, and members of the Church community elevated the meaning of our sacred Yom Kippur service. We’re so grateful.”

The Temple of the High Country is located at 1043 W. King St, Boone, NC. Services are most Friday evenings at 6 p.m. Visitors are welcome.