TEI Orchestra and Sacred Choir
(January 30, 2013)
As Jeremy Begbie of Duke University points out, classical western music is deeply rooted in the hymns of the church, and the church’s biblical assumptions of creation → sin → redemption. Or to put it another way: wholeness → brokenness → restoration. This is the biblical story line, rooted in our original given freedom to choose yes or no to God.
Classical music knows this pattern: equilibrium → tension → resolution. Namely, the musical score tells a story, has a starting point where all is well, has a thousand variations in the tensions that follow, such as crescendo and decrescendo, but eventually leads to a resolution that is complete, and the soul is satisfied, exhilarated and at rest. Wolfgang Mozart is reputed once to have been sleeping in the upstairs of his manse, when a person playing a piece on the piano downstairs was interrupted. Mozart awoke, went down, played the resolution notes, and was then able to return to his sleep.
There is much to explore theologically in this parallel. One observation is that in the biblical order of creation, had there been no sin, the tension of filling and subduing the earth would all have been positive and challenging. Sin adds pain to the equation, but in both cases, the eternal Sabbath is the goal.
Music not rooted in the biblical storyline so easily follows the storylines of pagan mythologies – original and unresolvable tension. The human soul yearns for the order of creation, then redemption, but cannot find it apart from the Bible.
The TEI has a vision to found an Orchestra and Sacred Choir, first in Hartford, then in New York on outward. I would choose a dozen or more of the greatest classical hymns, and the program would be entitled simply: Creation, Sin and Redemption. With music tracing this pattern, I would write a program that succinctly and strategically explains the history and theology of each hymn, to be read beforehand in sequence. The result will be a tremendous experience of theology and music intertwined, and the soul will come alive to the true and greatest storyline of the ages, and be motivated to live the redeeming love of Jesus in a broken world. The whole church, and well beyond, will be edified.
Also, a program is envisioned for a Negro Spirituals/American Folk Music/Patriotic interface.