Friday, April 30, 2010
Women's Voices Chorus (WVC) will perform a spring concert titled “Sparks of Divinity” on Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., in Duke Chapel.
For more information contact (919) 684-3855, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.womensvoiceschorus.org. Tickets available at the door, $15 adults, $5 students. The concert explores themes of light, evening, death, and hope in music from Russia, Hungary, Finland, Canada, and the United States. The concert will include a world premiere of Lana Walter's “Sparks of Divinity” written for Women's Voices Chorus.
“Sparks of Divinity” was commissioned by Susan E. Brown for WVC, in celebration of the life of her mother, Janie Perrin Stevens Brown. Susan Brown, also a singer in WVC, took three years gestating the idea for the composition, but always knew she wanted composer Lana Walter for the job: “I love singing Lana’s work – she has a great sense of quirky rhythm and harmonies.” Before the collaboration was complete, it would turn out that Susan and Lana would share more than a love of choral music, but also the experience of losing a mother to Alzheimer’s disease.
After her mother’s death in 2006, Susan began searching for the right texts to honor Janie, who was born to American missionary parents in China in 1915. A person of deep Christian faith, Janie’s frequent moves exposed her to many different cultures and beliefs over her lifetime. Perhaps this explains why her daughter Mary Ellen described her as “the most nonjudgmental person I have ever known,” able to “see in all persons the spark of divinity, the image of God, and to accept their culture, creed, or human foibles and failings.” Taking her sister’s words as inspiration, Susan wrote a poem entitled “Sparks of Divinity,” and gave it to Lana along with texts from the Books of John and Matthew, and a poem by Mary Frye, “I Am Not Here.”
“The commissioning of new work for women’s voices is one of the bedrock principles of our group, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to meet this mission in these challenging financial times,” said WVC Artistic director Allan Friedman, who is also assistant conductor of Duke Chapel music.
For the rest of the concert, Friedman chose pieces from around the world that were particularly suited to singing at sunset in Duke Chapel, on the themes of light, evening, death, and hope. “Songs of Radiance,” comprising four pieces, are his own composition, commissioned by the NC Music Teachers Association. Deborah Coclanis will accompany on piano.
“Willy Was a Whale” is the kind of head-bopping, silly-clever song that is a staple of the kiddie rock movement. It comes complete with a hand motion — throw arms up to form a big W with your head — for the tots in the mosh pit up front at concerts, and a little joke — Willy walks “all the way down to Weno, Nevada” — for the parents who buy the tickets. Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players do “Willy” at pretty much every show: it’s their “Born to Run.”
But when you listen to “Willy” on the CD “Yellow Bus” — the second of seven children’s albums recorded by Mr. Roberts — the song that follows it is a bit jarring. “Mama is sad and I know that/she’s taken off her ring,” it begins. The child in the song tries to cheer Mama by offering toys — “I give her my Lego blocks to play/but the blocks won’t fit together today” — and, ultimately, himself: “I give her my heart and I don’t want it back.” It’s pretty much impossible to listen to without crying.
When he wrote “Mama Is Sad,” strumming a guitar outside on a sunny day, “I was laughing because I was like, ‘Nobody writes a kid’s song that’s so sad and depressing,’ ” Mr. Roberts recalled in an interview earlier this month.
“As adults we like to think kids live in this fantasy world of innocents,” he added. “But I watch kids really respond to their environment. The idea that a kid would see their mother or father was sad about something and try to fix it was very real.”
“He gets into the entire spectrum of the kids’ experience — it’s not just everything is awesome, because everything is not awesome all the time” (Bill Childs). The church can learn from Justin's example. Yes, our children need to know that God loves them and wants only good things for them, but we need to be careful not to focus so much on the “awesome” elements of the Christian life that we make sadness and hardship a separate thing entirely. Kids need to know that Jesus wants to be their friend — the kind of friend in whom you can confide and to whom you can cry, not just a friend who’s fun to hang out with on Sunday mornings. -- Sarah
BILL MOYERS: Three weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a small book appeared that I have now read twice to help me sort out what I think about that massacre and the world that both produced it and has now been shaped by it. This is the book: REVERENCE: RENEWING A FORGOTTEN VIRTUE. Paul Woodruff wrote it. Paul Woodruff teaches the humanities, philosophy at my alma mater, the University of Texas. He's a veteran of Vietnam, the author of four other books, one of America's foremost interpreters of Plato, Thucydides, and other Greek thinkers from the ancient world.
Figuring out what they had to say to our world is Paul Woodruff's passion. Welcome to NOW.
PAUL WOODRUFF: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: How do you define reverence?
PAUL WOODRUFF: I think reverence is the capacity for awe in the face of the transcendent.
BILL MOYERS: The transcendent being--
PAUL WOODRUFF: It's whatever we human beings did not create: God, justice, the truth...
BILL MOYERS: Beauty.
PAUL WOODRUFF: Nature, beauty.
BILL MOYERS: Death?
PAUL WOODRUFF: Death is one of the most awe-inspiring facts of our lives.
PAUL WOODRUFF: And I think complementary to the awe in the transcendent is a felt sense of our own mortality and our own limitations, our own tendency to make mistakes.
BILL MOYERS: How does this create reverence?
PAUL WOODRUFF: Realizing the-- the distance between us and the ideals which we see as transcendent is the essence of reverence. Recognizing that, you know, we are-- we are born to die and between the time we're born and the time we die, we'll-- we'll probably make a number of significant mistakes, and realizing that this is true of other people as well as of ourselves, that we have a common-- a common humanity and are all in the same way vulnerable. It's the virtue in-- actually, in both the Greek and the Chinese system, I think, that protects the people who are most helpless from the people who are most powerful. When a victorious soldier kills a prisoner, that's a failure of reverence. When a ruler refuses to hear a suppliant, that's a failure of reverence.
When you're utterly helpless, if you're an old person in a hospital, if you're a lonely minority teenager stopped on a road late at night by a policeman, you really have nothing between you and-- and a terrible fate but the-- what I would call the reverence of the powerful person in your life at that moment. The best clue to how reverent we are is how we treat the weakest people around us.
BILL MOYERS: Why does reverence do that? Why is it responsible for that kind of humane, civil behavior that-- that prevents a soldier from desecrating the body he has just created?
PAUL WOODRUFF: Well you put it beautifully. Desecrating a body. The-- the dead, of course, are the most helpless people from the Greek point of view and from any point of view. They are-- a dead body is utterly helpless and vulnerable and to desecrate that is-- is to cross-- is to violate the-- the sacred. Part of reverence is recognizing, you know, the lines that divide where we can step and what we can touch and what we can do from what we shouldn't.
BILL MOYERS: You say, simply put, reverence is the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods.
PAUL WOODRUFF: Perfect. (LAUGHTER) [Interview continued here...]
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Work of the People (TWOTP) is a great resource for art connected to worship and missions. The name is derived from the Greek word leitourgia ("liturgy"). TWOTP describes itself as "a community of artists who create visual media for the church to re-orient God's people around Jesus' good news and mission to make all things new." Here's a cool excerpt from their foundation/mission statement:
We as artists are to articulate the implications of God's kingdom being true.
We believe the role of artists as bringing voice to God's unseen kingdom, is a special one. We believe artists are to engage holy imagination in co-creating with Christ a world redeemed by Christ, in articulating God's upside down world of love, of making things right, of restoring all things. We are deeply passionate about this prophetic calling, especially as it pertains to artists who acknowledge God's kingdom.
TWOTP has all kinds of high-quality resources for the artistic incorporation of multimedia into worship, outreach, missions and more. I first came into contact with TWOTP after seeing this video used as a sort of call to worship on the Sunday when the parable of the prodigal son was the lectionary text for the day. The song used is "This Is Love" by The Autumn Film, a group you should definitely check out, and I love how the video combines music and visual art to explore everything from obvious themes of forgiveness to even subtler questions of the gender constructs that get applied to prodigal-ness.
Taken from newspapers and other archival sources, the images depict isolated men, women and children — all civilians — photographed where they fell. Jurayj has turned the bodies upright as if willing them back to life, but they resist, appearing to float inertly in midair. He has also printed them in negative, which gives them an otherworldly glow.
The works are further activated by the viewer's presence — the steel is polished to a mirror finish so you can see your distorted reflection alongside each victim. It’s a discomfiting experience to see yourself so sheepishly alive among ghosts.
The silkscreens are accompanied by a few small sculptures of luggage and a digital video. Cast in a mix of gunpowder and plaster, the luggage provides a mute physicality that the evanescent images cannot. In comparison, the video — images of war "heroes" that slowly dissolve in rays of harsh light — is more expected. It's the only animated thing in the room but somehow feels less vital.
– Sharon Mizota
There's definitely something to say here about war, death and the resurrection...but I am most struck by the aspect of this exhibit that allows the viewer to see himself or herself reflected next to each body. I can hear 1 Corinthians 12:26 now: "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it." Silkscreens of dead bodies may be a disturbing, perhaps even offensive, medium of art, but shouldn't our acknowledgment of the shared suffering of humanity be equally discomfiting? -- Sarah
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Photographer and project creator Susan Sidebottom has captured working families on the uphill climb from homelessness to housing in “On the Edge: Homeless and Working Among Us.” Come to understand their experience through the power of the image.
Click here to learn more about the exhibit or view the full collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Carroll Hall, through May 17, 2010.
It is a mistake to associate genius soley with the flawless youth whose profound gifts reveal themselves early-on, writes Malcolm Gladwell in this classic piece from The New Yorker which discusses the dimensions of the varieties of genius.
"The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God"// Rolling Stone's interview with Bono
Both deal with the relationship with God. That’s really it. I’ve since realized that anger with God is very valid. We wrote a song about that on the Pop album (1997) – people were confused by it – which was called “Wake Up Dead Man”: “Jesus, help me/I’m alone in this world/And a f***ed-up world it is, too/Tell me, tell me the story/The one about eternity/And the way it’s all gonna be/Wake up, dead man."
Suddenly you go, what’s this? And you change the channel. There’s another one. You change the channel, and there’s another secondhand-car salesman. You think, oh, my God. But their words sound so similar... to the words out of our mouths.
So what happens? You learn to shut up. You say, whoa, what’s this going on? You go oddly still and quiet. If you talk like this around here, people will think you’re one of those. And you realize that these are the traders – as in t-r-a-d-e-r-s – in the temple.
Until you get to the black church, and you see that they have similar ideas. But their religion seems to be involved in social justice; the fight for equality. And a Rolling Stone journalist, Jim Henke, who has believed in you more than anyone up to this point, hands you a book called “Let the Trumpet Sound” – which is the biography of Dr. King. And it just changes your life.
Even though I’m a believer, I still find it really hard to be around other believers: They make me nervous, they make me twitch. I sorta watch my back. Except when I’m with the black church. I feel relaxed, feel at home; my kids – I can take them there; there’s singing, there’s music.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
An open roundtable on the theme "Futures of the Novel" will occur this Thursday (April 29) at 4pm in room 240 of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.
A joint lecture and discussion on the theme "Religion and the Humanities: Strategies for Interdisciplinary Engagement" will occur this Wednesday (April 28) at 4pm in room 240 of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Charles Isherwood of The New York Times is among those raving about the shot-in-the-arm given to Broadway by the recent arrival of the angsty musical American Idiot, the theatrical adaptation of punk-rock trio Green Day's blockbuster 2004 album of the same title.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tonight at 7:30 at the Carolina Theater is the annual Duke Divinity School Broadway Revue. The performance consists of songs from a variety of contemporary and classic Broadway shows, and is performed by a cast of Divinity students, faculty, staff and spouses. Also, the winners of the Duke Divinity School 2010 Spring Juried Arts Exhibit The End of Words will be announced. Come by to see some great entertainment and celebrate our artists one more time!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This coming June in Fez/Fes, Morroco will witness the 16th annual World Sacred Music Festival. A dynamic festival that honors all religious traditions and which is renowned the world over, you can learn more about it by following this link. This year's theme is "In Search of the Sacred Other."
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Journey to Santa Fe this August (1-8) to meet up with other artists committed to a vision of art as a witness that changes the world. Read a synopsis below about The Glen Workshops for 2010, and follow this link to learn even more.
// Synopsis //
Each year at the Glen we choose a theme to give a focus to our conversations over the course of the week. For 2010 our theme is "Creativity at the Margins: Art as Witness."
In the postmodern, pluralistic era in which we live, Christianity no longer holds the privileged position in public discourse and institutions it once possessed. What are the implications of this de-centering for artists of faith? How might working from the cultural margins offer new creative challenges to those whose work embodies a profound engagement with this ancient religious tradition? Should the believing artist “shout” or “whisper” to this culture, speak in the prophetic voice or quietly hint at the presence of grace? As many believers become more ideological and shrill in their response to these cultural changes, what role can art play in bearing witness to faith while speaking honestly about the human condition?
Saturday, April 17, 2010
"I think being a good theologian means being multiply alert..." // Image's exclusive interview with Dr. Jeremy Begbie
From the journal Image, an exclusive on-line interview with Dr. Jeremy Begbie on "the often-uneasy relationship between religion and contemporary art."
Image: In the current issue of IMAGE you review two books on the visual arts, but you are also known for your deep knowledge of music, both as a performer and as a theorist. How do your interdisciplinary interests affect the way you do theology?
Jeremy Begbie: As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in finding connections. My father, who was a physiologist, loved to trace the links between his discipline and visual art and poetry. It was always natural for me to look for links between music and the other arts, and, when I came to faith, to search for resonances between music and theology.
By its very nature, theology is concerned with God in relation to every facet of life and experience. I think being a good theologian means being multiply alert—with eyes and ears open in all directions to the multiple ramifications of Christian truth. That’s what I try to show when I teach and write—and I can’t think of wanting to operate in a more closed, categorical way.
Image: Your review touches on the way two thinkers—a secular critic and a Christian critic—deal with the relationship between contemporary art and religion. Is there any hope for developing intellectual common ground between the communities these two writers represent?
Jeremy Begbie: I believe there is, and that’s because I believe in the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is the go-between, the one who makes all fruitful communication possible.
The danger is in thinking we can find some neutral common ground, some space that is unaffected by our deepest commitments. That is impossible. The Christian enters into honest and respectful conversation with the non-Christian not by suspending commitment, but as someone committed to a particular God, eager to find signs of the activity of this God wherever they may be found, and open to learning more about what this God might be up to in the world. It is this God who will find the common ground for us. For many years I have been engaged in conversations with artists of little or no faith, and often been astonished at the way spiritual matters emerge quite naturally. But I find it fruitless if I pretend to be uncommitted.