Saturday, April 27, 2013

Concert Reviews - April 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 Conservatory of Music
Mozart’s Requiem
Friday, April 5
Edman Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

Most years, the Wheaton Conservatory makes a project of preparing and presenting one of the masterworks of the classical repertoire. Some years are more involved than others; this year’s presentation of the Requiem Mass in D Minor (K. 626) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was about medium-level, in that it involved four of the large ensembles and a week’s worth of special rehearsals.

Mozart’s Requiem is one of the great works I am most familiar with, as there are two standard trombone excerpts from it. Interestingly, I missed having the chance to play those parts by two years both ways – the Conservatory presented the Requiem the year I was a junior in high school, and now again two years after I graduated.

Standing ovation for Dr. Trotter, soloists, choirs, and orchestra
But I immensely enjoyed being an audience member for this presentation. The mass choir – containing the Concert Choir, Men’s Glee Club, and Women’s Chorale, sounded as good as I have ever heard them. Diction, balance, phrasing – all good.

One regrettable part of the performance was the difficulty in hearing the vocal soloists. I had heard all four of them sing before and I know they are talented, capable singers, but due perhaps to the dynamic of the hall and the large orchestra behind them, it was hard to hear them at times.

However, in sum, it was an excellent performance, and I want to congratulate Dr. John William Trotter on his first masterwork project at Wheaton.

Civic Orchestra of Chicago
Monday, April 8
Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, Chicago, Illinois

The Civic Orchestra’s April home concert, under the direction of its principal conductor, Cliff Colnot, had two works, one of which I knew, one of which I did not, and both of which I heard live for the first time.

The concert opened with the short “descriptive orchestral piece” The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62 by Anatoly Liadov (I must admit I had not heard of Liadov, or if I had had forgotten about him since my music history classes).

Immediately following was the piece I had been looking forward to hearing since the Civic’s season was announced: Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite, Op. 35 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. As I said above, this was the first time I had heard this piece performed live, though I knew it with some familiarity due to its having a standard trombone excerpt.

The Civic’s performance of the suite was, in two words, energetic and passionate. I could tell the Civic brass section received coaching from members the CSO brass section, because they seemed to channel some of that power into the brass-heavy passages. Concertmaster Emily Nash performed the frequent violins solos (which represent Queen Scheherazade’s storytelling) with incredible sensitivity. When Colnot acknowledged soloists individually, he saved her for last, and he was clearly elated with her work – as were all of us on our feet in the audience.

The Wheaton College Symphonic Band
Concert in Blue
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Edman Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

Dr. Timothy Yontz, director of the Symphonic Band, has a knack for creating diverse programs for the Band’s home concerts. This spring concert, however, was the first time I can remember him giving a theme to a home concert (I say “home concert” to distinguish from biannual Children’s Concerts and Christmas Festivals). The theme was simply “Blue,” and most of the works on the program had the word blue in their titles. That connecting theme yielded another wonderfully diverse program, showcasing the immense talent of this wonderfully diverse group of young musicians. There were pieces with a jazz influence (“Blue Moon” and “Rhapsody in Blue”) and one piece performed in collaboration with the Concert Choir, to name a few. It was, as always, well done.

Friday, April 19, 2013

On Obedience

Part of the "Devotional Thoughts" series. Go to the list of Labels in the right sidebar and click "Devotional Thoughts" to browse the entire series. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


Read Luke 5:1-11. To summarize: Jesus encounters Simon Peter and his fisherman colleagues at the Sea of Galilee, uses their boat as a platform from which to teach crowds on the shore, and then instructs the fishermen to cast their nets, which results in a massive catch.

Consider Simon Peter's response to Jesus' instructions. Peter, of course, is notorious for speaking before thinking, but here at least it is to the readers' advantage, for we can read, in essence, his entire thought process. His first statement is a statement of fact: he and his partners had been out all night (the preferred time for fishing, according to the notes in my study Bible), and had caught nothing. I can almost imagine Peter cutting himself off with the second statement, when he decides that Jesus' instructions are enough to try again, despite all evidence indicating it would be futile.

And then, a miraculous catch!

As I read this passage last night, I wondered: are there things God is asking me to do, and on which He is waiting for me to act before responding with some miracle or revelation? Quite obviously, God is not dependent on my actions in any way, but I believe that He sometimes chooses to wait for us to be obedient to His call before enacting a particular blessing.

Why? I doubt it is merely an exercise in operant conditioning. Again, God is not dependent on my action, as if I was the accounting department officer who has to countersign a check. No, I think rather God waits for us to act so that we can learn the value of obedience, of doing things God's way, of trusting His judgment, even if we have already been out all night with nothing to show for it.

Is God asking you to do something, something that may seem odd or against rational thought? God is not bound by human reason. And there may be a blessing beyond what you can imagine waiting for you on the other side of obedience.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beautiful Inheritance

Part of the "Devotional Thoughts" series. Go to the list of Labels in the right sidebar and click "Devotional Thoughts" to browse the entire series. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


Read Psalm 16. It is only eleven verses; it will not take long, I promise. I read it yesterday, as it was one of the prescribed psalms for Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.
This is one of David's psalms. The study Bible I have notes that it is an expression of confidence in the Lord. The stanza that most caught my attention yesterday was that of verses 5 and 6:
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in beautiful places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I spent some time meditating on that last phrase: "beautiful inheritance." What might David have been referring to? Looking at the verse and a half before, it certainly could mean his present life, a life full of many blessings. It most likely does mean that, given the tense of the verb (i.e., "I have a beautiful inheritance," emphasis added).

And how true is that today? We have blessings both material and, for the Christian, spiritual - and in both cases, it is all due to God's grace.

What could be a more beautiful inheritance than God's grace and the gift of new life in Christ? We are in the midst of Eastertide, the season of celebrating new life in Christ. Have you received that beautiful inheritance?