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Catholic church centennial begins with special concert
Colla Voce
Colla Voce, an ensemble of professional musicians, directed by Dr. Larry Wyatt, will sing May 6 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in a chamber concert as part of the churchs centennial. - photo by Ken Headley

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it will begin with a special evening of professional chamber music, both choral and instrumental. The centennial concert, will feature works by some of the world’s best known composers, as well as by a contemporary South Carolina composer. The performers will be Colla Voce, plus The Upton Trio and Friends.

Colla Voce (With the Voice) is a choral chamber ensemble of 16 to 20 professional musicians, directed by Dr. Larry Wyatt, director of choral studies at the University of South Carolina. The event is a concert, not a Mass, but Colla Voce will sing parts of the Mass set to music by various composers, ranging from Mozart and Haydn to Charles Gounod and Vincent Perischetti.

The performance will be at 7 p.m. May 6 in the church at 1709 Lyttleton St. There is no admission charge, and the community is invited to attend the concert and a reception afterward in St. Mary’s Hall.

Additionally, the concert will feature a performance of “The Gift,” a new work composed by violinist Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian, concertmaster of the South Carolina Philharmonic and assistant concertmaster of the Greenville Symphony. Her work with the Upton Trio as both violinist and composer has been featured on NPR’s “Themes and Variations.”

The Lumpkin family of Columbia commissioned Kinosian to compose music for Arthur Lumpkin’s poem, “In memoriam: The Gift,” a tribute to the heroes and victims of the 9/11 terrorists attacks in the United States. The composition is for chamber orchestra, choir and tenor solo. Tenor Dustin Ousley will be the guest soloist for “The Gift.”

Billy Shepherd, pastoral musician for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, as well as pianist and managing director of the Upton Trio, attended the premiere of the Kinosian piece about a year and a half ago. He said he was so moved by the emotional work that it brought tears to his eyes.

“When it was finished, the audience went absolutely crazy. I told Larry at the time, ‘I have got to find a way for the people of Camden to experience this piece,” Shepherd said.

He spoke with the church’s pastor, Father Francis J. Travis, who gave the go-ahead for the concert as a highlight of the church’s centennial celebration. Unfortunately, the former pastor died January 22, after a long illness, but the concert will go on as he had planned, despite the fact that the church is in a transitional period until a new pastor is appointed.

The Upton Trio will also perform during the evening. In addition to Kinosian and Shepherd, the trio includes cellist Dusan Vukajlovic. Active as an orchestral musician since an early age, he performed regularly with the Belgrade Philharmonic, as well as with orchestras in Georgia and Florida. Vukajlovic is first cellist with the South Carolina Philharmonic.

Sylvia Upton Wood founded The Upton Trio in 1989 to present chamber music concerts for the artistically underserved in Kershaw County schools, nursing homes and hospitals, as well as public agencies, such as the Kershaw County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs. In addition to the trio’s public performances, its commitment to schools remains paramount.

The Upton Trio is sponsored by The Frederick S. Upton Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, the Hootie & The Blowfish Foundation, Camden Junior Welfare League, S.C. Arts Commission with the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of S.C., local businesses and individuals.

The orchestra for “The Gift” includes Kinosian, first violinist; Vukajlovic, cello; Damir Horvat, second violin; Audrey Harris, viola; Craig Butterfield, bass; Brianna Leaman, oboe; and Cynthia Hopkins, flute, all members of the S.C. Philharmonic; and Shepherd, pianist.

Colla Voce will conclude the concert by singing two spirituals. Dr. Ann B. Wilson, pianist, will accompany the chamber choir throughout the program, except for “The Gift.”

There will be an intermission during the concert, which will run approximately an hour and a half.

Another centennial celebration

The next centennial celebration will be marked by a visit from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who will celebrate an anniversary Mass at 7 p.m. May 20 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. A reception will be held afterward on the church lawn, as the late pastor had wanted.

“Father Travis had wanted it out on the lawn, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Kathleen Sheldon, a parishioner since 1983 and a member of the church choir who keeps the choir scrapbook.

After the anniversary Mass, a time capsule, which was buried in the church garden during the 75th anniversary of the church in 1989, is to be opened, and a new time capsule holding items from 2014 will take its place, Shelden said.

Parish history

Construction of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church was completed, and the picturesque Spanish Mission structure, with its signature red-tiled roof, was dedicated May 24, 1914. At that time, the church had only 20 regular members.

That was 100 years ago, but according to available history and articles which have appeared in church directories, the Catholic Church in Camden had its origin well before 1884. The Diocese of Charleston was founded in 1820. At that time, there were only 1,000 Catholics in all of South Carolina. Priests were scarce, and with no church, Camden was just a small mission. Mass was celebrated in private homes only when mission priests were available.

In 1884, an effort was made to build a church in Camden. The building, however, was never completed and was sold later at public auction. Finally, in 1903, the Sacred Heart Church, also in Spanish Mission architectural style, was constructed and dedicated. Camden then had its own parish and pastor. It was used until 1914. The building at 1501 Lyttleton St. later became Temple Beth-El, the Jewish Synagogue, and still stands today.

In 1909, Charlotte Thompson of  Baltimore, Md., purchased land outside of Camden and moved into a house on the property known as “The Terraces.” She soon became a benefactress of the present Catholic Church in Camden. Her interest began during a visit to Rome, Italy, where she was converted to Catholicism and was baptized in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Rome. In gratitude, she returned to Camden for the purpose of building a Catholic Church here, bearing the same name, on property she purchased on the corner of Lyttleton and Pine streets.

The building dedicated in 1914 is the Lyttleton Street Wing of the present church. In 1967, enlargement of the church began, adding the Pine Street Wing, West Wing and classrooms for religious education. The addition was completed in April 1968. The West Wing is now frequently referred to as “The Annunciation Wing” because of the mural of the same name painted by Claude Buckley, which dominates the back wall.

Additionally, an exact replica of the painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help occupies a prominent place in the sanctuary, above the white Italian marble altar. Dark, natural wood sets off the interior of the church.

Additional buildings erected on church property since the dedication include offices, St. Mary’s Hall and a rectory (now housing offices).  In 1962, the garden area was enclosed and landscaped. In 1997, a house on Lyttleton Street was purchased to be used as a rectory.

Today, Our Lady of Perpetual Help serves hundreds of families living throughout Kershaw County. Mass is celebrated twice each Sunday, at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and two vigil Masses are celebrated each Saturday: one in English at 5 p.m. and another in Spanish at 7 p.m.