On Wed., Aug. 11, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church made the decision to postpone its first Stained Glass Session concert with Radney Foster “due to the growing number of cases of Covid-19 in San Antonio and the resulting impact on our area hospitals.” The show will be rescheduled for early 2022. This story has been updated.
The stained glass windows of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church along Pecan St. downtown have told the stories of its community for a century and a half. So it’s not surprise that a new concert series at the church will be named the Stained Glass Sessions, featuring singer-songwriters who tell stories through song.
“We’ve got a window with our very first rector, the very first priest Lucius Jones,” said Reverend Matt Wise, associate rector for liturgy, formation and family ministries. Other windows celebrate Children’s Christian Formation and a citywide basketball league, two programs from the church’s history.
One day, a new window might depict Radney Foster, the first singer-songwriter scheduled to play St. Mark’s for the Stained Glass Sessions. Foster was scheduled to play the first concert on Aug. 20, but it has now been postponed due to the surge in coronavirus cases.
Those who had reserved free tickets for Foster’s concert will be the first notified when the show is rescheduled in early 2020, and will have the opportunity to reserve new tickets for the show before it is opened back up to the general public.
“The point of this series is to showcase beautiful, good music in an acoustically beautiful and aesthetically beautiful space,” Wise said.
Foster is a particularly apt artist to kick off the series, not only because he and Wise came up with the idea together at an Episcopal creativity camp in 2018, but because Foster is adept at storytelling, not only in songs but in a book of short stories, Wise said.
“Part of … what makes good music and connects us to it, is it tells a good story,” he said. “And so in some ways, the music is another stained glass window, or the stained glass window is another form of music that tells our story in the life of the community.”
One song by Foster, A Little Revival, is about gospel singing in a chapel, but he said most of his songs wouldn’t fit a general definition of religious music. However, he said, “I think my faith can’t help but show up in songs. … If you feel the sense of trouble in a particular song, for whoever, the main narrator or the character, if he cries out some drunken prayer to God in the midst of it, it’s real. That’s as faithful as it can get.”
Foster said his only religious requirement is that the crowd likes honky tonk songs, “because I’m gonna play some even while I’m in a church.”
One Foster song will connect the past history of St. Mark’s to the present day. An anthemic song that makes audiences “riot” if Foster doesn’t play it — according to both Foster and Wise — is titled Texas in 1880. Wise pointed out that “beautifully and poetically, the parquet flooring that he’ll be standing on while he sings … was installed in 1880.”
The musicians who will be invited to play Stained Glass Sessions will not necessarily have a connection to religious music, Wise said. Instead, the exchange between audience and performer in a live music situation reflects the spiritual connection the church is meant to inspire.
“There’s a divine spark in the shared experience of live music,” Wise said.
Presenting a concert series of secular music fits the church’s mission.
“Our core vocation is to feed San Antonio with the bread of life,” Wise said. “This kind of event really helps us delve more deeply into offering something that is feeding those who are hungry for creativity, for meaning, and for beauty.”