Faith a resounding theme for new choral season
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University’s music department has long performed works that are representative of Western choral tradition, with an emphasis on music that contributes to our Christian heritage.
For its 2014-15 season, which begins Thursday with the Masterworks Concert I, the choral program is focusing its repertoire on a theme of faith — specifically, the integration of faith, learning and practice.
“Through music, there are a lot of connections between faith and the real application of faith,” said Dr. Juan Hernandez, assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts and Production. “Artists are able to explain challenging areas of life — illness, war, planes dropping out of the sky — where words only cannot explain.”
The concert, featuring the Canyon Chorale, the Canyon Singers, Critical Mass and various student and faculty soloists, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix, 3100 W. Camelback Road, on the far southeast side of GCU’s main campus. Admission is free.
The 80-member Canyon Chorale, featuring GCU’s veteran pianist Mark Feary, will perform “Dark Night of the Soul” and “Luminous Night of the Soul,” by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. Described on Gjeilo’s website as “lush, warm, symphonic-sounding,” “Dark Night” and its sequel, “Luminous Night,” use text from a medieval poem by St. John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish priest.
“It talks about the fact that faith comes to fruition during the most difficult times of life, in the middle of the night when you’re deep in thought,” Hernandez said. “The Apostle James also talked about that — the maturation of faith is in the midst of trials.”
During those trials, people tend to ask where God is. Hernandez’s reply: “God is still there and He is listening. He may not answer when and how we want, but when we realize that He is still there, our faith becomes stronger.”
Continuing that faith theme, the 32-member Canyon Singers will perform “Even When He is Silent,” composed by Kim André Arnesen. Its lyrics, “I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. I believe in love, even when I feel it not. I believe in God, even when He is silent,” were found on a concentration camp wall after World War II. The author is unknown.
Masterworks Concert I also marks the debut of Critical Mass, a 14-member a cappella ensemble that replaces the University’s New Life Singers. The music tradition and style of Critical Mass is more classical than its predecessors, and it will continue representing the University at churches, schools and civic functions. At Thursday’s concert, the singers will perform contemporary hymn arrangements.