About the Choir
The Minnesota Compline Choir formed under the direction of Charles A. Parsons at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota where it kept the office of Compline from 1992 to 2005. The Choir had been resident at Hamline United Methodist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota from October 2005 through January 2010 and at the Basilica of St Mary in Minneapolis from March 2010 to May 2015. The Choir is currently in residence at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN.
Mr. Parsons retired from the Choir at the end of the 2008-2009 Season. Since 2009, the choir has been under the leadership of James Biery, Erick Lichte, Clarance M. Smith, Aaron Humble, and Aaron Brown. Our 2016-2017 season introduces Adam Reinwald as our newly appointed director (see About the Director for bio).
The choir is comprised of 18 male voices, selected by audition from a wide variety of congregations and denominations. They meet the 3rd Sunday of the month to prepare for each service, and on other occasions for performances at special holiday services.
In worship, the choir performs all of the liturgy, hymns, anthems, and psalms. Click here to see our schedule.
Sunday services begin at 6:51PM. All are welcome!
About the Director
Brief History of the Choir
The Lord Almighty, Grant Us a Quiet Night
About the Director
Adam Reinwald (Assistant Conductor & Community Engagement Manager) From 1998-2014, Adam was a member of the nationally-renowned male vocal ensemble, Cantus. During his tenure, Cantus was awarded the 2010 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence from Chorus America, released 17 albums on its own label and helped establish a unique collaborative working model for vocal chamber musicians. Adam has performed with Bobby McFerrin, Garrison Keillor, Keith Lockhart, Joanna Carneiro, Anne-Marie McDermott, Paul Neubauer and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and as soloist with The Boston Pops, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Opera, A Prairie Home Companion and the Oregon Bach Festival. He has worked as a clinician across the US as well as in Europe and Cameroon, West Africa. A graduate of St. Olaf College, Adam maintains an active voice studio in the Twin Cities, focusing on developing high school voices. He is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America and Chorister’s Guild.
Brief History of the Choir
The Compline liturgy at Central Lutheran Church was begun in January 1992 out of that congregation's desire to add a new and different liturgy to their worship schedule. A priority for the new worship service was to offer a liturgy that could be broadcast live through a radio station. Central Lutheran already had an existing relation with WCAL 89.3FM out of Northfield, MN, with that station offering live broadcasts of the Sunday morning worship.
Offering a liturgy of Compline on late Sunday night seemed to be the most logical choice for adding a new worship opportunity to Central Lutheran's already rather full worship schedule. It could be offered late at night, live participation from an actual congregation was non-essential, the service was non-sacramental which meant that the presence of an ordained person was not necessary. Furthermore, the Compline liturgy, although not widely used in Lutheran communities, had been a part of the Lutheran Book of Worship since its publication in 1978.
Charles Parsons, then Director of Music for Central Lutheran, traveled to St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle in order to explore the possibility of implementing a Compline liturgy. St. Mark's had begun its Compline service in 1954 under the direction of Peter Hallock. The St. Mark's Compline was perhaps the first modern offering of a Compline liturgy in the twentieth century. Although the initial beginnings of that group evolved from a chant study group, the St. Mark's expression quickly found its niche as a spiritual refuge for the many young people of Seattle's Capitol Hill. Routinely, the nave of St. Mark's Cathedral is packed each Sunday night at 9:30PM with a congregation made up of students from the nearby University of Washington, parishioners, and worshippers who have become devotees of the Compline service.
Following Parson's study of the Seattle experience, Central Lutheran launched its Compline services in 1992 under the leadership of then Senior Pastor Steve Cornils.
The sale of WCAL to Minnesota Public Radio in the fall of 2004 led to major changes for the choir. Among those was a move in October 2005 to Hamline United Methodist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. The choir then returned to radio on KKMS 980 AM during that same month.
The Minnesota Compline Choir is funded entirely through CD sales and individual donations.
To make a donation, please make your check payable to "Compline Choir of Minnesota" and send it to:
The Compline Choir of Minnesota
C/O Andrew Heintz
115 North 2nd Street, #602
Minneapolis, MN 55401
The Minnesota Compline Choir is a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. Your donations are tax deductible.
The Lord Almighty, Grant Us a Quiet Night
By Michael Brown
The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last. Amen.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, O Most High: to herald your love in the morning, your truth at the end of the day.
Silence prevails. A single candle announces the presence of God. It is Sunday night and 20 men in black robes are solemnly seated in the choir loft. At precisely 8:30 P.M., the first notes of an organ prelude gently accent the silence.
The prayer at the close of the day, known as Compline, has begun in similar fashion since 1993. Although many things change through the course of time, the chanted service of prayers as sung by the Compline Choir of Minnesota remains unwavering from traditions that have been kept by monastic communities around the world for over a thousand years. Counter to the current movement in church growth, with trends toward "contemporary" services, the Compline service preserves ancient traditions of simplicity, restfulness and timelessness of text and tune.
Compline is the last in a continuous cycle of daily prayers and worship known as the Divine Office of the Church, to which Matins and Lauds (morning prayers) and the more familiar Vespers (evening prayer) also belong. In the text of the Compline service the act of going to sleep at the end of the day is analogous to the eternal rest that we find in Christ when we die. As we confess our sins, examine our consciences, and offer the actions of the day to God, we are assured that God continually watches over our lives, even as we sleep.
The power of these quiet and contemplative moments draws the diverse community of men that make up the Compline Choir together. The group is made up of 20 musicians who are members of Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian and other churches around the Twin Cities. Equally diverse are the ages and careers of the members. The auditioned members of the choir who are between the ages of 25 and 66, lead careers ranging from the ministry to business, from professional musicians to architectural and graphic designers. However, as the men assemble to rehearse and sing every Sunday night they are united as one by the history and spirit that dwell in words of the service.
Each member of the group can attest to the unique bond that is expressed when they sing. Charles Parsons, former director of the choir, often comments on the natural expressiveness of the group as they shape musical phrases and breathe in unison without instruction as if they had been singing together for hundreds of years.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Former Compline Music Director Charles Parsons and Pastor Steve Cornils brought the concept of having a Compline Choir to fruition in the spring of 1992 at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. They questioned whether they could gather enough male voices to sing together past the first year, but Charles and Steve were pleasantly surprised as the group grew in number and ability with little turnover from year to year.
As we cycle through the hymn and psalm repertoire, many of the original members of the group can recite the exact dates that the group has previously worked on a particular tune, much to the amusement of the newer members. One would never guess that the solemn group that sings in the sanctuary is also the same jovial group who trade endearing barbs with one another and spout a never-ending stream of religious and musical puns.
The Compline Choir is assisted in their ministry by many unseen hands. Jeff Johnson engineers the sound of the choir, then Ron Heil edits each recording for radio broadcast. Ron also provides the radio voice for the choir. Station managers often get calls from frustrated listeners when the broadcast is preempted. During the service itself, a reader assists the musicians with spoken words of instruction, inspiration and hope. Tenor David Nelson comments that this is often his favorite part of the service:
"Words to live with weekly, monthly, and for a lifetime. Inspiration takes hold and I see my life differently...I know that with my attention to God's instruction and his inspiration taking shape in my thoughts, life is full of hope and peace results."
The choir recently gave a reluctant goodbye to longtime Compline lector Elsie Bachman as she retired from her volunteer position. Her eloquent speaking voice had become as much a part of the Compline tradition as the music itself. As a thank you for her years of work with the group, the choir serenaded her with a rendition of "Happy Trails," much to her surprise and delight.
Hear my prayer, O Lord: listen to my cry.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
In righteousness I shall see you; when I awake, your presence will give me joy.
Be present, merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of life may find our rest in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The choir has developed many traditions of its own since its inception, including a devotional time led by a different member of the group each week. Bass Shawn Mai, a pastor at Walker Methodist Health Center and longtime member of the Compline Choir, comments:
"I'm touched by the personal devotional times that mark the moment before the broadcast and I'm lifted by the good humor that permeates so much of our time together. Through tragic events in our world and through the events in my own life there is a reminder of the consistency of God's presence as we chant this ancient liturgy in regular rhythm."
Frequently, the devotions are personal stories of renewal and growth and are inspiration for all of the members of the group. Tenor Bruce Setterholm recently commented that Compline is for him, a sense of closure of one week's events and thoughts as well as a time of spiritual renewal and preparation for the week to come.
Other traditions that have developed over the years have included singing the last service of the season at a Catholic church. Our Lady or Lourdes, St. Louis King of France in St. Paul and the St. Paul Cathedral hosted the Compline Choir in recent years. The enthusiastic applause from the large congregations at these services is very rewarding to the choir members who are accustomed to singing for a radio audience only.
In 2003, the choir invited guest artists to perform with them as part of the celebration of their 10th anniversary year. In October, the all-male Viking Chorus of St. Olaf College sang with them, a truly unforgettable experience for members of both choirs. Soprano Ann Norrlander inspired the group as she soloed with them during a service in September.
Travel and musical ambassadorship are also traditions that the choir eagerly anticipates. In the past few years the choir has taken their unique sound to churches in Chicago, Phoenix and Florida. In addition, they have spent summer retreat weekends at Assisi Heights in Rochester and at the Mount Olivet Retreat Center in Farmington.
The Compline Choir of Minnesota is sponsored by Assumption Catholic Church. The half-hour radio broadcast (tape delayed from the previous Sunday night) may be heard on KKMS 980 AM beginning at 11:30 PM each Saturday night. Assumption Catholic Church and the Compline Choir also invite and welcome visitors to attend the peaceful service in the church's magnificent sanctuary. Compact Disc recordings featuring the Compline Choir of Minnesota singing the Compline service along with selected anthems are available for purchase from choir members.
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace. Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that a wake we may watch with Christ and a sleep we may rest in peace.
The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us. Amen
Note: The chanted text of the ancient Compline service, taken from the Lutheran Book of Worship, is produced within this article in italics.
Michael Brown, a native of Excelsior and a member of Central, is a graduate of St. Olaf College and the University of Minnesota College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. He is employed with RSP Architects, Ltd. of Minneapolis and with Mount Olivet Rolling Acres in Victoria. He has sung with the Compline Choir of Minnesota for three years.
This page last modified on September 10, 2016