Dr. Jerrode Marsh shares with us this article concerning the recent concert by the Trinity International Concert Choir. Dr. Marsh is the Director of Music for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s international English-speaking congregation in Frankfurt, Germany, Trinity Lutheran Church.
The Trinity International Concert Choir performed a concert of English music on Sunday, 18 May 2014 in the historic Heiliggeistkirche in Frankfurt. The concert included a cappella music from the Renaissance and early Baroque era, some English Cathedral choral music with organ accompaniment, two organ solo pieces and concluded with a performance of John Rutter’s Requiem. Featured soprano soloist was Trinity Lutheran Church’s own graduating high school senior and TICC member Vanessa Marsh. The organist was Hans Kielblock, Kantor of the Wiesbadener Ringkirche and the Requiem was accompanied by a small orchestra ensemble. Trinity International Concert Choir purposefully seeks to highlight the international diversity of the choir members by performing the music from various choir members’ home countries. This most recent concert, entitled “Renaissance to Rutter,” recognized the six English nationals who currently sing with TICC.
The majority of the choral texts were based upon Scripture. Several pieces also included sacred lyrics written by the composers and also some other poets. There were also some short texts from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and Latin texts from parts of the Requiem Mass. The central theme of the program focused on God’s promises to those who have a relationship with Him: promises of righteousness and redemption, the promise of love that is stronger than death, the promise of perfect peace, and the most powerful promise of all—that of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This last promise comes at the end of the “Agnus Dei” movement of Rutter’s Requiem, which concludes with the words of Jesus “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live! And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
The concert opened with a short work based on Psalm 25: “O Lord, I lift my heart to Thee. My soul in Thee doth ever trust. O let me not confounded be, but make me righteous with the just.” This prayer set a beautiful spiritual tone for the entire concert: God’s children can trust in Him and He will fulfill His promises! The promise of righteousness also flowed throughout the rest of the concert, beginning with the opening Psalm, and appearing also in the middle of the program in “Greater Love Hath No Man” by John Ireland, where the composer set the passage of I Peter 2:24 first for soprano solo, followed by a reprise with the choir. “He himself bore his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” This promise was echoed again in the penultimate movement of the Requiem, whose text is the 23rd Psalm. The movement is orchestrated beautifully, showcasing the pastoral sounds of the oboe and the harp. The Lord—our Shepherd—will lead us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.
There were many breath-taking moments in the concert but one passage that spoke of the promise of peace was particularly brilliant that evening. It occurred in the anthem by Samuel Sebastian Wesley. The anthem is based on Isaiah 26:3, which says “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” This special musical moment came in the middle of this anthem, right after the choir sings “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” The passage that follows soars musically, accompanied by the words “O let my soul live and it shall praise Thee!” This is echoed by each voice part, becoming progressively more intense, and exploding with in musical excitement with the words “For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory for ever and evermore!” This passage then ends and there is a calm and still reprise of the words “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” God has promised perfect peace to those who keep their hearts and minds close to Him and His Word. In this world of brokenness and uncertainty, the gift of perfect peace is indeed a marvelous promise. With this peace our souls can truly live and praise our great God! For me—and for all of us who trust in God’s power and grace—this peace is a promise worth clinging to forever.
This musical passage was a very intimate “moment of grace” in the concert. These moments in performance are something I cherish both as a conductor and as a performer, because I never know quite how and when they will happen, but I know they will always happen. I anticipate each performance with the expectation that God will never fail to work through the music in some special way, whether for me, for a choir member, for an audience member, or for all of us. As a conductor of sacred music, I have experienced that this is indeed true worship. We come with our hearts open to the unexpected and we can expect Him to meet us where we are. And when we prepare and perform sacred music, whether for concert or for a worship service, He will reveal His power and love, indeed, Himself, anew to each of us. Scripture proclaimed through the medium of music and voice in concert does speak to many in a way that words alone simply cannot. There is great power in God’s gift of music.
- Pray for the people who attended the concert, that the Gospel proclaimed through music would bear fruit.
- Learn more about Trinity Lutheran Church.