Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Concert Reviews - February 2013

Part of a series of reviews of concerts I attend. Select "Concert Reviews" from the list of labels in the sidebar to see all of them.


Wheaton College Artist Series
Hubbard Street Dance 2
Saturday, February 9
Edman Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

The second half of the 2012-2013 Wheaton College Artist Series season began with the season’s collaborative event (the Series likes to have one such event every year). For this event, seven dancers from Hubbard Street 2, the second company of Hubbard Street Chicago, performed with live music from the Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra.
I had never seen a live modern dance performance (the dance events on the Artist Series I have seen, for example, have all been ballet or folk dance), and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Many of the pieces were original works of choreography by Hubbard Street artistic staff. And the orchestra sounded absolutely superb in their performance – the dancers and orchestra seemed to feed off each other’s energy all night long.

Art Intercepts had this review of the concert that I found a few days after.

Wheaton College Artist Series
China National Symphony Orchestra
Thursday, February 21
Edman Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

Twelve days later, and we were at it again. The Wheaton College Artist Series welcomed China’s national symphony, the China National Symphony Orchestra, during their 30-concert tour of the United States. In the hall that evening were many members of the region’s Chinese-American media and the Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago, Zhao Weiping.

Enough fun facts, and on to the music. CNSO was one of the finest orchestras I have ever heard, and thanks to my involvement with the Artist Series, I have heard quite a few from all over the world. Phrases like “incredible musical sensitivity” and “they are breathing the music” came to mind. Due to my Board duties that evening, I was only able to hear the first half, but that was definitely a treat.

The first half consisted of two works by Chinese composers. The concert opened with the First Movement of the Earth Requiem by Xia Guan, composed in commemoration of the devastation caused by a 2008 earthquake. CNSO gave a gorgeous performance of this work, with English horn and French horn solos rising from the flowing strings.

Up next was the “Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto by Zhanhao He and Gang Chen, with virtuoso Chuanyuan Li performing the solo part. The piece actually has two major solo roles, the other being played by the principal cellist. The concerto depicts the Chinese “Romeo and Juliet” story, with many exciting and dramatic (and surprising) mood shifts as the lovers’ tale progresses. Mr. Li seemed to have an infinite amount of energy and passion with which to perform, nearing knocking over the concertmaster’s stand at one point. His standing ovation at the close of the first half was very well deserved.
Wheaton College Symphonic Band
Winter Concert
Saturday, February 23
Edman Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois
The Wheaton College Symphonic Band
The Wheaton College Symphonic Band, of which I had been a part for seven semesters as an undergraduate, had recently performed at the Illinois Music Educators Association state conference in Peoria. They reprised their repertoire from that performance, as well as adding three pieces under the batons of three honors conductors. The result was a diverse program including transcriptions of works by orchestral Prokofiev, Wagner, and Copland and wind band works by Ronald Lo Presti, Eric Whitacre, and John Philip Sousa. It was a highly enjoyable concert, and very well-executed both technically and artistically by the band.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lenten Devotional Guides

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the Passion of the Lord Jesus. I have found two devotional guides that I plan to use over the coming weeks. Both are available as free downloads.

The first is "Lent is About Jesus," from The Gospel Coalition.

The second is "Who is That Man?" by Ray Pritchard, my former senior pastor.

Do you have any devotionals or anything else you have used or will use to focus your time with the Lord during Lent? Share about your chosen resources in the comments section below!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Who Was Paul Harvey?

A good friend of mine has a ChicagoNow blog, and I was her featured guest blogger last Tuesday. I just realized that I never shared my piece on my own blog! Here it is.


And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.

Where did you hear that recently? My guess is that many people, like me, heard it Sunday night during the second half of Super Bowl XLVII. The two-minute montage of color still photos depicting farmers, farm life, and farm families, with an unadorned speech track accompanying it, was eventually revealed to be an advertisement for Dodge Ram trucks.

Did you also notice, either when you saw it on TV or when you perhaps watched it again on YouTube this week, the name that flashed across the screen on top of the opening shot? Paul Harvey?


I must admit that I did not recognize the name. That may or may not be a clue into the influence of twenty-first century media technology on my life.

Wikipedia revealed that Paul Harvey was an American radio broadcaster who passed away just a few years ago. His work included news and news commentary segments that drew national audiences of over 20 million across some 1300 radio stations during the second half of the twentieth century. His career at one point took him to Hawaii (he was in the army during the Second World War), but he primarily worked from the Midwest, particularly, Chicago. Harvey won a number of awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He counted as friends many national figures such as J. Edgar Hoover and Billy Graham.

The speech used in the Super Bowl commercial (only slightly truncated in that use; the full version can be found in this article) was originally given at the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. Harvey’s support of farmers is fitting with The New York Timesobituary description of him as a champion “of the fundamental decency of ordinary people.” The Chicago Tribune, in its obituary of Harvey, noted that his litmus test for programming a given news story was “Would Aunt Betty care about this?”

The New York Times also noted Harvey’s unhidden passion for average Americans and his concern about “bureaucrats who lacked common sense.” “I have never pretended to objectivity,” he once said. He also refused a request to relocate to New York City, even as he gained a national reputation, preferring to stay in Chicago. I think all Chicagoans will agree that Harvey was a true Chicagoan himself, embodying the common sense, hardworking, neighbor-helping spirit of this great city.

As I continued to read about Harvey on Monday, I discovered (also on Wikipedia) that he had for many years attended the same church where I grew up and now and work, Calvary Memorial of Oak Park. I checked with more senior members of church staff, and they verified that information. My former senior pastor recalled that Harvey and his wife were “very friendly,” and it had always been a pleasure to see him at church. One older gentleman even remembered his preferred seat in our auditorium!

It made sense to me that Harvey had been an active church member. His Christian – specifically, Baptist – faith clearly influenced his opinions on many of the issues of the day, not least his nod to farmers (the “So God Made a Farmer” speech has in its opening line and refrain allusions to the Genesis account of Creation). He was known as “The Voice of Middle America” and “The Voice of the Silent Majority.” Jesus Himself was a champion of the “middle class” of His day – in fact, His first disciples were everyday, hardworking fishermen!

Thanks to Dodge, CBS, and the National Football League, Paul Harvey has had a surge in popularity. Hopefully, the issues and people he championed will have a surge in popularity as well.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eric's Favorite Super Bowl Commercials

Last night, I enjoyed Super Bowl XLVII in the company of Calvary's young adults community. It was a great party, full of laughter, and the game was a Super Bowl-quality contest, no doubt. I am not a sports expert, so I will not comment any further on the football, but I did keep a short list of favorite advertisements. I will save my two favorites for last, and start with the others, listed in the order they appeared (most of these first ones I chose for being funny).

Audi, "Prom" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANhmS6QLd5Q

AXE, "Nothing Beats an Astronaut" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGoU3VH7He4

Tide, "Miracle Stain" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoOfBVraMNw (my friend Claire, who was sitting next to me at the time, called it as a Tide commercial early on)

Samsung, "The Next Big Thing" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ae7E8J7h7Y

And now my two favorites, chosen for their profound messages and tributes to two groups of people that make America great:

My second favorite was the Dodge Ram tribute to Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" (a speech Harvey, a late American radio broadcaster, made at the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention). As an interesting fact, I found out today that Harvey attended Calvary for many years. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE

By far my favorite of the night was "Whole Again," the salute by Jeep at halftime to "Our Nation's Heroes" - the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, with "Honor" (Hans Zimmer et al.'s Main Title from The Pacific) as the soundtrack, this two-minute spot looked forward to the day when the servicemen and women return home to their families. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FadwTBcvISo

What were your favorite advertisements? Post their names with a link in the comments section below!