Great music – fine musicians – an atmosphere of excellence – art and the struggle for meaning in art – all in a day’s work for a symphony musician or a singer.
So, what’s different? Oratorium is a Christian music festival sponsored by the Jubilate Foundation of Romania. At Oratorium the conductor, the festival director, the section leaders, and the guest artists are Christians, drawn together for a more-than-purely-musical purpose.
What difference does that make? In no particular order, it means the end of competitiveness, the start of a deeper musical collaboration, a unity of purpose, and a common understanding of the origin of truth/beauty/goodness in the Person of God, Who is the central figure of the festival’s main program, Franz Josef Haydn’s The Creation.
For one week of rehearsals and performances, interspersed with worship sessions, chamber music, and Bible study, these Christian musicians are engaged as whole people in pursuit of a common purpose, the glory of God through musical performance.
Apart from those who are specifically employed by the church, musicians routinely function in a world that isolates aesthetic goals from acknowledgement of the Author of beauty. After all, so many of their colleagues hold no such belief. For Christian musicians, the origin of all music is the unspoken subtext in all they do, but often necessarily a silent one. Here at Oratorium, it is explicit, expressed, and avowed–no apologies, no veiled references, no unspoken inner convictions, but an outward proclamation of God’s guiding hand in all they are and do.
When have you ever heard of an acclaimed orchestra conductor who began the first rehearsal with prayer? And not just prayer for good musicianship–there have probably been lots of silent prayers for that, from believers and non-believers alike! But a prayer for open communication, requesting God’s help, to create that which glorifies God in all the efforts to be undertaken?
And what a difference it makes!
Christof, principal bassist, remarked at how wonderful it is to seek the spiritual side of sacred music–because that is the most important part. Such concerns usually have to be suppressed in a secular setting.
Ellen, principal violist, noted a far closer and more honest relationship between the conductor and the players. She found it refreshing to do music among people of like mind.
Florian, bassoonist, has marveled at the banishment of all competitiveness. It is like a dream, he says–united, they can create a spirit that is free in Christ, doing music.
Alexandra, violinist, also addressed the spiritual side. She has experienced the way in which the spiritual goal leads to the musical goal, realizing that somehow the core of music is divine.
As musicians in the secular world, they must all deal with the pressures of daily living the Christian life in a fallen society. They become musical quanta, bringing their strengths and weaknesses, sometimes their alienations and vulnerabilities, always their struggles and accomplishments, to their work–to be judged, compared, stacked, and sometimes trampled in the harshly competitive world of musical performance. Here at Oratorium, the strengths and weaknesses are the same, with this difference: they can, in Bonhoeffer’s words, “dare to be sinners” who are saved by grace through the Blood of Christ.
(Robert McAnally Adams)