Tuesday, May 18, 2010
A Symphony with New Life
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest is unique among American symphonies. For one, the symphony consists predominately of professional Christian musicians. Secondly, the orchestra doesn’t charge for their concerts.
“Our mission is to introduce people to Christ and to enrich the faith of believers through the witness of great composers and musicians,” he stated at a recent community outreach concert at Robertson & Sons Recital Hall in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“This is something that is very uncommon on the symphonic landscape. As time goes on, ticket prices get higher, distancing the music from the audience.
“New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest is different. We want people to come to our concerts. Why? The answer is twofold: to hear great music, but also to hear that God loves them. And that God can make a difference in their lives too.
“At a preconcert talk I once heard a conductor talking about the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms. This is a work for Chorus and Orchestra minus violins, violas, and clarinets. The text for the work is based on three psalms. The first movement is based on Psalm 39:13, 14. The second movement is based on Psalm 40:2-4, and the final movement are based on Psalm 150.
“These psalms are rich in spiritual context but all the conductor had to say was, “Music is spiritual, and when you add to that text from the Bible it elevates it to a whole new level… but we aren’t going to go there.” I remember leaning over to my wife and whispering in her ear… and that is exactly where we are going to go.
“Many of the greatest composers that ever lived had a deep spiritual connection with God. Composers that make up the foundations of Western music, such as Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Vaughan Williams (his uncle was none other than Charles Darwin) and many more.
“Our primary goal with the New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest is to share the spiritual lives of the composers and how their relationship with God exalts Him through their music and lives.”
I asked Michael how this symphony came about.
“I investigated some into the life of the author, Kavanaugh, and found that he is the Executive Director of the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship and the Artistic Director of the MasterWorks Festival, both Christian symphonic organizations.
“In short, I prayed with a group of professional Christian musicians that I knew from our church and we began seeking God’s guidance about starting a professional Christian orchestra here in the Southwest. We have seen God work in the most amazing ways.”
“Were you prepared for the response you received?” I asked.
“Well, yes and no. I think that one of the most surprising blessings has been comments from our audiences. Once, a Jewish person before a concert told me that they were Jewish and that they were a little uncomfortable about all the Christian aspect to the concert. Then seeing them after the concert and having them come up to me and thanking me for what a surprising blessing this concert was to them.
“Being able to pray with the orchestra at the start of every rehearsal and just prior to the concert has also been a real blessing. Several of the choir members from our performance last year of Mozart’s “Requiem” made a point to come up and thank me for praying before every rehearsal. I could not even imagine trying to attempt to lead others without giving it to the Lord and seeking His direction.
“There have been things that I’ve been required to do that I don’t really enjoy, such as asking individuals and businesses for financial support. But another conductor (in the secular world) I talked with once told me that 90% of his job is fundraising.
“Orchestras are enormously expensive. Consider paying 65 people $100 a service (i.e. rehearsals, concert) and multiplying that number times seven. This is what it typically costs. Our top orchestras in the country pay over $200 per service. Do the math and you’ll get an idea of what it costs to put on a concert—and that’s not including hall rental, programs, advertising, insurance, benefits, etcetera.
“At our August concert last year we had Dr. Steven Clapp, a violin professor from the Juilliard School of Music join us as solo instrumentalist. Steven is a Christian. What a blessing it was to have him come and share his testimony with the audience and then to share the gifted that God has entrusted to him. Wow, what a blessing.”
At the recent community outreach, Michael spoke to folks interested in the Symphony. In his address he stated, “I would like to see New Life SOS go beyond just music. Our world today is so focused on self. “It’s all about me” is our modern-day mantra. I think that instead of asking the question “What’s in it for me?” we should be looking around us at the enormous number of needs in our own backyard and asking, “What can I do for you? And you?” I believe that when you bring together a large number of people (such as an orchestra) that we can do more for others than we could do on our own.
“I would like to see us impact our community in practical ways: perhaps by partnering with service centers (homeless centers, pregnancy crisis centers, ARCA, hospitals to provide operations to those who can’t afford it, cancer research, etcetera), to help raise funds for their needs, to help those who have so little, and to encourage youth and help to spread the love of God.”
In between speeches (where he talked about Mozart’s faith, quoting letters Mozart had written), a quintet called “Chamber Chops” played Mozart’s “Wind Quintet” in Eb Major. The music was well-executed and the acoustics of the recital hall were quite marvelous.
The next symphonic performance will be “Lord Nelson’s Mass” by Joseph Haydn on June 6th at 3pm. The concert will be held at Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque.
For more information about New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest, visit their website at http://www.NewLifeSOS.org
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