By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent April 26, 2013 10:44PM
Dr. Larry Sisk, Stephen Platko and Father Daniel Torson, CPPS | Supplied photo
Stephen Platko, a resident of Plainfield and a graduate of Northwestern University, is a highly acclaimed composer of works for choir, band and orchestra as well as chamber music. His compositions have been featured in previous concerts of the Lewis University Choir, at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Exposition in Chicago, on radio station WFMT, and in concerts and liturgical services throughout the United States. For many years Platko served as choirmaster at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Joliet.
The chanter/celebrant will be Father Daniel Torson, CPPS, chaplain and assistant professor of theology at Lewis University. Torson played in the U.S. Air Force Band, in Omaha, Neb., where he was a saxophone soloist with the Concert Band. Prior to priesthood, Torson was a junior high band instructor. At Lewis University, he specializes in teaching liturgy/sacraments and Christian ethics.
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:08PM
One might assume the April 30 scheduling of a choral rendition of the “Panikhida,” the official memorial service of the Eastern Orthodox Church, on the brink of the denomination’s Holy Week was meticulously planned.
But that isn’t at all the case.
“When I looked at the score with Larry Sisk at Lewis last year, the fall concert was already scheduled so he said, ‘How about the spring?’” said Stephen Platko, 74, of Plainfield, former choir director of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Joliet. “The fact that it also falls close to our Easter is very appropriate.”
Easter or Pascha, as it’s also called, is May 5 this year in the Eastern Orthodox faith.
Dr. Lawrence Sisk, chairman and professor of music at Lewis University in Romeoville, was the perfect individual for Platko to approach with his project. Sisk directs the Lewis University Choir, a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and community members, that specializes in a cappella sacred music. This choir will sing the memorial service.
As choirmaster at St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church in Aurora, Sisk is quite familiar with the Panikhida. During its performance, the Rev. Daniel Torson, chaplain and assistant professor of theology at Lewis University, will join the choir as the chanter/celebrant.
Platko composed his rendition of the Panikhida in four to eight parts and specifically for the Lewis University Choir. The Panikhida’s texts extend back to the Third and Fourth century and are common to the requiems of many Christians denominations.
Although “requiem” suggests sobriety, the Panikhida’s prayers, litanies, readings, psalms and hymns actually impart of a sense of joy as they implore God for sweet repose of the departed and comfort the living.
“This is a very meaningful, complex and weighty piece of music,” Platko said. “I couldn’t have tackled this in my 20s or 30s, but now that I had the time to reflect on things, I believe I have the maturity to deal with the subject: the end of life as we know it and hope of something better in the life hereafter.”
Platko, who retired after 52 years of serving as his church’s choir director, was just 17 when he assumed that role. His rendition of the Panikhida was one of several contemporary liturgical arrangements Platko and his brother, Fr. John Platko, former pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Kansas, had planned to create together but never completed.
So when Platko’s brother died six years ago, Platko finished the arrangements and posted them on his website (www.orthodoxmusicaloffering.com) for others to use free of charge in a worship setting only.
Platko is also a former band director for Taft Elementary School in Lockport, Lockport West High School and Tinley Park High School. He retired in 1994 as district supervisor of fine arts at Bremen Township High School District 228 in Tinley Park.
In addition, Platko served as the second director for the Tinley Park “Arts Alive!” community band (www.artsalive.org/home.html), which promotes, teaches and performs fine arts for the Chicago area. He stepped down from that position in 2004.
“It was a very good community program,” Platko said. “It gave me an outlet to write many band pieces that actually were performed.”