OGDEN — An event planned for tonight at the First Presbyterian Church promises to be a rich experience for those of any faith, as participants celebrate a common theme of values and beliefs.
The sixth annual Festival of Song will begin at 7 p.m. at the church, 880 28th St. in Ogden.
The event will feature music about the elements of wind and fire.
For the last two years, the festival has centered around the themes of water and Earth.
“We are completing the elements,” said Wangari wa Nyatetu-Waigwa, who is the director for the annual event.
Featured will be two groups from the First Presbyterian Church: the women’s Grace Notes and the men’s Kings Men.
The groups will be singing separately as well as together.
Also performing will be the Weber State University Alumni Singers.
There will be solo performances and musical numbers featuring the flute and marimba.
Jennifer Harkness, of North Ogden, who is the accompanist for the Weber State Alumni Singers, has attended the event for the last five years.
She said she believes the festival is just what the community needs as people of different religious backgrounds can come together.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said, “especially right now where the country is so divided.”
Harkness, who has performed sign language as part of the program, said she enjoys how the program is designed to incorporate many different languages.
Scott Russell, a Plain City resident and a member of the Weber State Alumni Singers, said because of the richness and variety of the music, the event is always beautiful.
He also complimented Nyatetu-Waigwa on her efforts in organizing the festival each year.
“The effort and the amount of her own soul she puts into it is significant,” he said. “The energy and drive she puts into it make it worth attending.”
Russell said Nyatetu-Waigwa is very thorough in tracking down the appropriate music and getting talented people to perform it.
He said the event gives him, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an insight into a minority group living in the community.
“I lived in Indiana most of my life,” he said, noting his own experience with being part of a minority group. “That’s why I enjoy doing it.”
“The most enjoyable part of the event for me is that so many people of differing beliefs come together in a positive way,” said Naomi Anson, who is not a member of any church but sings with First Presbyterian’s Grace Notes group.
“It is nice to hear Latin plain song and the chants in Hebrew,” she said. “The music has a religious theme, but it is diverse.
“It is an event that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their religious affiliation.”
Brother Michael, who is a member of the Catholic Trappist Monastery in Huntsville, has participated in the event every year since it started.
“The themes center on the Psalms of David — which are universal prayers loved and said by peoples of many faiths,” he said. “It is wonderful to hear them sung or chanted in many different languages, which underscores both the diversity and universality of these prayers and emphasizes the unity of believers from different faiths here in Ogden.”
Brother Michael said he performs during the annual event, doing Latin versions in plain song, which ranges from simple chanting to complex Gregorian chant.
“The singing by different groups only enhances the upbeat flavor of the whole performance,” he said. He tells members of the First Presbyterian Church every year that he believes the show should go on the road from one place of worship to another.
Nicole Berthelemy is a South Ogden resident and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden who has attended the event for four years.
“I love the music,” she said. “It’s very nice.”
But Berthelemy said the fact that the festival is open to many, diverse religions is what makes her feel at home at the event.
“There is a universal message,” she said. “It talks about a common message and common ideals. That’s kind of nice.”
And Berthelemy said she knows many of the people who attend First Presbyterian Church, which sponsors the event.
“I like being with them.”