Yuriy Bekker, violinist and artistic director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, plays a June 4 chamber music program featuring the work of Jewish composers. He is joined by, left to right, pianist Marika Bournaki, violinist-violist Michael Klotz and cellist Julian Schwarz | Photos by Desi Gillespie

Religious observance has been declining for years. About 20% of adults in the U.S. reported going to in-person services less often than they did before the pandemic, according to a Pew Research report.

But during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival season, dozens of houses of worship in Charleston, also known as the “Holy City” are busy with performers.  Visitors stride through doors they might otherwise not. Through this festival’s tradition of interfaith hospitality, these buildings become vessels for art more secular, though perhaps just as divine. 

Enjoy this photo essay from recent performances around the Holy City.

Chatham Baroque (left to right, Andrew Fouts, Patricia Halverson and Scott Pauley), an ensemble specializing in pre-classical music, plays the first of six shows for the Early Music series at St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church on May 28. 

Candles lit in prayer flicker in the alcove behind Chatham Baroque as they rehearse for their first performance of Piccolo Spoleto.

Crowds gather outside St. Philip’s Church for the annual Charleston Men’s Chorus Memorial Day concert. The line outside the historic 1836 church stretches all the way to Queen Street.

The Charleston Men’s Chorus sing an arrangement of “Ubi Caritas et Amor” (Latin, “Where Charity and Love”) from the narthex of St. Philip’s prior to their military-style procession for the Memorial Day performance.

The New South Festival Singers, under the lofted rafters of Circular Congregational Church, perform to full rows of pews on Memorial Day. The current structure, built in 1890, replaced a Robert Mills-designed church that burned in 1861.

A soloist sets the tone for the New South Festival Singers’ 2023 program, standing alone in the front of the church. 

The a capella men’s quartet The Charlestones (left to right, Brink Norton, Stephen Spaulding, William Purcell and Todd Monsell) sing their Memorial Day concert at St. John’s Lutheran Church, completed in 1818. The musicians first founded their quartet at the church in 2014.

Jared Lamenzo (in rear loft, seated right) performs on the historic French Huguenot Church’s organ on June 2 as part of Piccolo Spoleto’s “L’Organo” series. The organ was installed in 1845, just one year after the completion of the current sanctuary.

Lowcountry handbell ensemble Palmetto Bronze plays their June 4 “Through the Decades” show at Bethel United Methodist Church, built in 1853. The dark wood interior contrasts the painted-white finish of many church pews in Charleston.

A couple walks by Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim’s Greek revival synagogue, finished in 1841, on their way to a Piccolo performance in the space. The reform congregation was one of the first in America, founded in 1749. 

Desi Gillespie is an arts journalism graduate student at Syracuse University.

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