An Opera Decades in the Making

An Opera Decades in the Making


When I came to IPC as Organist/Choirmaster in August 2000, Senior Pastor Dr. Jim Carter strongly encouraged me to consider presenting the opera, "The Three Hermits" by Stephen Paulus. Dr. Carter had been instrumental in securing the funds to commission this opera when he was pastor at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN. Before coming to IPC, I had directed music for operas, musicals, and dinner theatres in Mississippi. I know the enormous amount of work it takes to undertake a production like this. It has taken 20 years, but we are now ready to present this production in our sanctuary in collaboration with the UAB Opera Department on April 11 and 13. The opera is one hour in length and incorporates eleven soloists from UAB and IPC, along with the IPC Choir as the chorus of Pilgrims. Members of the Alabama Symphony will be playing in the orchestra. The two main characters are Chris O’Rear as the bishop and Beth Middleton as the mother.

Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, an Orthodox Bishop is traveling to the Solovetsk monastery on a ship across the White Sea in Russia in the 1880’s with his mother and two nuns. Hearing a fisherman tell of three strange old hermits who live on a remote island, the bishop resolves to go there and deliver some religious instruction to them. He spends the entire day on the island teaching the Lord’s Prayer to the hermits, who have considerable difficulty learning it. Finally satisfied that he has done God’s work, the bishop returns to the ship and sails away. As the moon shines over the water and the bishop is sitting on deck with his mother, she notices a disturbance behind them on the water. It turns out to be the three hermits, who are running over the water toward them. When the hermits arrive, they apologize to the bishop for having forgotten the words of the Lord’s Prayer after “Who art in heaven.” Chastened, the bishop assures the old men that the way they choose to pray is well loved by God. The hermits then turn and run back over the water. The last words we hear are those of their original prayer: “Three are Ye; three are we; have mercy on us!”

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” – Matthew 6:7-8

The Three Hermits will be presented in our sanctuary on Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13 at 7 pm. Admission is free. Please join us!