The music ministry of the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, under the direction of Canon Benjamin Lane, Cathedral Musician, shares the Good News far and wide through its choirs, which provide opportunities for young people as well as adults to perform, and offer diverse and high-quality concert series year after year by incorporating excellent musical instruments and talented musicians from throughout the music community.
This, according to Lane, is part of the Cathedral’s mission as seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida and a member of the greater Orlando community.
Lane first learned of the then-vacant position of Cathedral Musician while teaching and directing music at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. Due to Florida’s hot and humid subtropical climate, he was reluctant to mail in his paperwork and a cassette in fall 1990. A few weeks later, the search committee notified Lane that he was one of three finalists chosen from 80 hopefuls.
The following January, in 0-degree weather, Lane left Milwaukee for extensive interviews in Central Florida’s balmy 80-degree climate with Cathedral clergy and choir representatives, and members of the community who participated in the Cathedral’s rich musical life. After experiencing Saint Luke’s conscientious commitment to finding a quality music director to work in both the Cathedral and the community—and the irresistible appeal of Central Florida’s subtropical winter—Lane warmed up to the idea that the Cathedral Church of Saint Luke would be an ideal fit and accepted the position.
Twenty-six years later, Lane places a laser-like focus on strong choral music, including choirs for adults that include chamber singers who sing for special events like Tenebrae and concerts, and several children’s choirs: Orlando Deanery Boychoir and Girls Choir, and the Cathedral Choristers. The key to the choirs’ success? Lane strives to create a family-style environment that emphasizes teamwork, balances fun and hard work, and values the vocal and personal contribution of each member. He lauds his choir members for checking their egos at the door and exhibiting a high level of commitment to making good music together during the 2-hour weekly rehearsals.
Lane’s musical talents and family-style approach to his choirs have helped the Cathedral achieve some impressive accomplishments.
The Cathedral’s choirs travel as cultural ambassadors for the city of Orlando and have performed in cathedrals around the world, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London; Westminster Abbey, London; St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Tokyo; and Episcopal cathedrals in Munich, Vienna, and Prague.
Domestically, the choirs have performed at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, New York; Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York; the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Cathedrals in New Orleans; and most recently, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., to name a few.
Involvement in the children’s choirs advanced training program prepares youth, as young as 6 years old, to sing and perform on a professional level. While the Boychoir and Girls Choir members are primarily from the community and sing for events other than Sunday mornings, the Choristers is comprised of child singers who are members of the Cathedral and sing almost exclusively on Sunday mornings.
Shepherding the Cathedral’s music ministry is not without its challenges. The music director says his biggest challenge is not to overextend himself, the staff, and the people involved in the choirs. “There’s so many potential opportunities to do different performance and projects, but we don’t have the time, the staff, or the budget,” he said.
Lane said the Cathedral’s music budget is used wisely, despite the program’s success. “There’s a misconception that our choirs operate on a lavish budget,” he said. “That’s not the case at all. What you see is created on a very small budget. So, I have to be mindful that demands of others and the demands of the Cathedral choirs’ workloads don’t become burdensome.”
When asked about his vision for the future of the Cathedral’s music ministry, Lane said five years from now I’d like to see us involving more people outside the Cathedral in making music; instrumentalists and orchestras, which are expensive items. I’d like to increase the responsibilities of my assistants, Melissa Ramb and Michael Petrosh. Of course, I’d like to see more events that would bring in people, introducing new and different forms of music. I’d also like to see us produce recordings of the music the Cathedral choirs make.”
As for musical inspiration, Lane thanks his parents. “Daddy was a music director and fantastic tenor in Baptist church from his college years until he died at the age 57,” Lane said. “He studied music in college and seminary and late in life, he got ordained. I always assisted him making music. Mama was his organist and pianist. I learned a lot of lessons from both of them, as well as a love for the art.
“Daddy considered himself a minister, so he was sincere about making good music that inspired people,” Lane said. “It came from his heart and from his deep faith, and he felt a passion for sharing it. I feel that he and Mama passed all those things along to me, simply by their good example. I think about him all the time.”