Church to stage an­nual fes­ti­val

The Review - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

WHITEMARSH >> Year-round, they are movers and shak­ers in the lo­cal busi­ness world, teach­ers, nurses and stu­dents. But Jan. 12 and 13, con­gre­gants at his­toric St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Lafayette Hill will join forces with friends and rel­a­tives from all over to stage their an­nual Boar’s Head & Yule Log Fes­ti­val — one of this area’s sig­na­ture hol­i­day events.

His­to­ri­ans trace Boar’s Head fes­ti­vals to the days of the Ro­man Em­pire. As adapted by the Chris­tian Church, such pro­duc­tions de­pict the ma­raud­ing boar’s down­fall in the face of the Christ Child’s in­no­cent good­ness and play out via cho­ral, dance and nar­ra­tive se­quences that high­light the clas­sic push-pull be­tween good and evil and con­clude with an iconic Na­tiv­ity tableau.

That said, mere words don’t be­gin to cap­ture the in­spired stage­craft that trans­forms St. Peter’s peace­ful sanc­tu­ary into a liv­ing, breath­ing shad­ow­box of melodic me­dieval pageantry, down to the col­or­ful pe­riod garb worn by the scores of lords, ladies, jesters, woods­men, archers, shep­herds, scullery maids, an­gels and wood sprites who in­habit that imag­ined world.

The St. Peter’s Boar’s Head de­buted in 1980, and the fact that it en­dures after nearly four decades is a trib­ute to the solid un­der­pin­nings laid by its orig­i­nal or­ga­niz­ers — peo­ple like the late Robert Rosen­berger, who in­tro­duced the pageant to the Lafayette Hill church­go­ers when he was St. Peter’s or­gan­ist; orig­i­nal cos­tumers Kathryn Styles and Verna Goebel; Al Kam­merle, who served as mu­sic di­rec­tor when the fes­ti­val pre­miered and whose fam­ily mem­bers have been in­te­gral par­tic­i­pants ever since; and long­time di­rec­tor Carolyn Hanel and her fam­ily.

In­sid­ers say credit for the spec­ta­cle’s con­tin­ued vi­tal­ity goes to the im­pres­sive num­ber of St. Peter’s mem­bers who have sup­ported the an­nual ef­fort ever since. That in­cludes gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies whose chil­dren have grad­u­ated to adult roles, prin­ci­pal play­ers who have evolved into sup­port staffers and — some four decades along — a di­verse con­tin­gent of women, men and chil­dren of all ages, tal­ents and “types.”

Cur­rent di­rec­tor Kate Gar­ri­son suc­ceeded Jan Gera (who fol­lowed Hanel in the post), and Gera now serves as Boar’s Head stage man­ager. Danielle Gard­ner is the event’s mar­ket­ing and pub­lic­ity di­rec­tor. Mem­bers of all three fam­i­lies are Boar’s Head veter­ans.

As are count­less oth­ers, they em­pha­size. Peo­ple like Tim War­ren, Roger Baras­cout, Frank Gal­lagher and Gary and Sil­via Ro-

ten­bury.

War­ren, who plays one of the Three Kings, has also been part of the fes­ti­val since it be­gan. These days, the War­ren fam­ily trav­els to Lafayette Hill from the El­iz­a­beth­town area to par­tic­i­pate. Wife Leah helps with the pro­duc­tion’s an­gels, and the cou­ple’s three daugh­ters are fes­ti­val lif­ers — ini­tially as wood sprites and an­gels.

Baras­cout has played Joseph more times than any­one can re­mem­ber (and does this year aside a Mary por­trayed by St. Peter’s Grace Biddy). Gal­lagher, can­tor at neigh­bor­ing St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, is the pro­duc­tion’s vet­eran Her­ald and King Wences­las.

Gary Roten­bury has been a Boar’s Head par­tic­i­pant ev­ery year since 1981. He has por­trayed King Wences­las, one of the Three Kings, and is known as the pro­duc­tion’s first “singing Joseph” for his mul­ti­ple per­for­mances of the haunt­ing “Joseph’s Song.”

Wife Sil­via has been a Boar’s Head reg­u­lar for 21 years in roles as widerang­ing as Mary, a dancer, a choir mem­ber and, for eight years, Lady of the Manor to Bob Guzik’s Lord of the Manor. She calls the Boar’s Head “the best way I know to of­fi­cially bring the Christ­mas sea­son to a close.”

“In the be­gin­ning, the pro­duc­tion was mostly made up of church mem­bers,” she con­tin­ues. “What started out as a sim­ple church ac­tiv­ity has blos­somed into a real fam­ily and com­mu­nity fes­ti­val. Over the years, more and more peo­ple from the com­mu­nity come to par­tic­i­pate as well as at­tend.

“There are so many peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing their time to bring the fes­ti­val to­gether … from the di­rec­tor to all the peo­ple be­hind the scenes — light­ing, sound, cos­tumes, makeup, choir re­hearsals, orches­tra re­hearsals — who come from all over to par­tic­i­pate, year after year, in big roles as well as small.

“Sev­eral folks in smaller, al­most un­seen, parts come back year after year as a time of fel­low­ship, ca­ma­raderie, run and re­newal. It is fun and spirit-filled for the en­tire fam­ily.”

Which also keeps Boar’s Head au­di­ences com­ing back, fes­ti­val spokesman Gard­ner be­lieves.

“There is some­thing so mag­i­cal about this pre­sen­ta­tion,” she says. “Any­one who comes to see this gor­geous and glo­ri­fy­ing dis­play of faith and wor­ship leaves ex­hil­a­rated and a bit teary-eyed. You can hear the au­di­ence as they leave the per­for­mance buzzing about how they can’t wait to come back and see it again next year. It’s just that kind of show. It’s a feast for your eyes and ears, but — most im­por­tantly — for­ti­fy­ing for your heart and soul.

“We also like to keep the fes­ti­val fresh year after year, so we make it a point to al­ways blend in some new mu­sic, cos­tum­ing and other de­tails so that you are never re­ally see­ing the same show twice. One ques­tion I get pretty fre­quently is, ‘Which songs are you do­ing this year?’ Peo­ple have come to ex­pect these sub­tle changes and look for­ward to what sur­prises we have in store.”

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is lo­cated at 3025 Church Road (be­tween Ger­man­town and Ridge pikes), Lafayette Hill. 2019 Boar’s Head & Yule Log Fes­ti­val per­for­mances are sched­uled for Jan. 12 at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. and Jan. 13 at 1 and 4 p.m. Tick­ets are $15 and may be or­dered by phone (610-828-3098) or on­line at Eventbrite (StPeter­sLafayet­teHill.org/ boars-head-2019). Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at stpeter­slafayet­tehill. org. Pas­tor Jonathan Suloff and St. Peter’s con­gre­gants wel­come the pub­lic to at­tend.

SUb­Mit­ted PhOtO — st. PeteR’s lUtheRan ChURCh

Mem­bers of st. Peter’s lutheran Church are seen dur­ing a pre­vi­ous year’s per­for­mance of the an­nual boar’s head and Yule log Fes­ti­val.

SUb­Mit­ted PhOtO — st. PeteR’s lUtheRan ChURCh

Mem­bers of st. Peter’s lutheran Church are seen dur­ing a pre­vi­ous year’s per­for­mance of the an­nual boar’s head and Yule log Fes­ti­val.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — KRISTIN HOKANSON

The Holy Fam­ily, with Grace Biddy as Mary and Roger Baras­cout as Joseph, ap­pears at the con­clu­sion of the up­com­ing Boar’s Head Fes­ti­val.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — ST. PETER’S LUTHERAN CHURCH

Mem­bers of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church are seen dur­ing a pre­vi­ous year’s per­for­mance of the an­nual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Fes­ti­val.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — KRISTIN HOKANSON

King Wences­las, Frank Gal­lagher in yel­low feath­ered cap, has a word with his page, Grant Guzik.

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