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Monday, 30 April 2012

Real hope in the face of genuine despair

On Wrecking Ball Bruce Springsteen combines the classic sound of the E Street Band with that of the Seeger Sessions Band. He combines hard times stories of recession hit working people with the language of hope and aspiration in the midst of hard times found in gospel music and spirituals. He even manages to combine folk, gospel and rap within one song ('Rocky Ground') without sounding a false note. He repeats the trick he pulled off with 'Born in the USA' of writing a patriotic sounding song which questions the unthinking patriotism of those who don't appreciate the irony ('We Take Care Of Our Own'). The album is propelled forward by the anger of its storytelling songs before seguing through 'Wrecking Ball' into songs of hopeful fortitude for which Springsteen appropriates the language of faith and the imagery of the Bible. Wrecking Ball is a masterful summation of Springsteen's strengths and an inspirational call to real hope in the face of genuine despair.  


Bruce Springsteen - Rocky Ground.

Windows on the world (194)

Canning Town, 2012


Sixpence None The Richer - Don't Dream It's Over.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

John Piper and the Church

The commissioning of contemporary art for churches from significant British artists that began through the work of Walter Hussey and George Bell led to numerous stained glass and tapestry commissions for churches and cathedrals by John Piper, among others. Among Piper's most notable church commissions are pieces for the new Coventry Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral.
Piper had a life-long fascination with, and care for, church buildings; a relationship which began as a young boy when he produced his own sketches and guidebook to the churches in his home county of Surrey. In addition to his links with churchmen such as Hussey, Bell and Moelwyn Mer­chant, Piper enjoyed a 50 year friendship with Revd. Dr. Victor Kenna writing that “Kenna . . . had a lasting and import­ant influence on my life, combining as he did (and alas so few clergymen do) an understanding of the author­ity of the Church and the authority of form in paintings and sculpture.”

While, in his early artistic career, Piper was involved with the modernist 7 and 5 Society and Axis, the modernist journal edited by his wife Myfanwy, he moved from the creation of purist abstracts to celebrate and record, in forms that are both romantic and modern, an English provincial world of old churches and stately homes. His subsequent paintings mainly focus on the British landscape and churches. 

Stephen Spender noted that Piper and Eliot, among others in this period, were linked in their commitment to the "idea of the sacred." Christopher Frayling has written that, the Neo-Romantic movement (of which Piper was part along with Graham Sutherland who also gained significant church commissions in the period), "sometimes chimed with the aspirations of the post-war Church of England" as they "searched for a lost Eden amid the ruins of the contemporary landscape: who wanted to depict its desolation while striving to reach beyond it; who felt it might soon be closing time in the gardens of the West, and who thought of the pastoral as one of the few remaining symbolic ideas in the culture from which to draw hope." 

An exhibition at Dorchester Abbey currently celebrates the contribution John Piper made to the development of modern art in British churches throughout the twentieth century. More than 70 works spanning Piper’s diverse and illustrious career are in the exhibition along with key works from public collections including the Britten-Pears Foundation; Manchester City Art Gallery; Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester; The Collection, Lincolnshire and the V&A. The exhibition also includes special works from private collections, most of which have been rarely seen.

For the first time ever, one of each of the ecclesiastical vestments designed by John Piper for Coventry Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral and the very first cope commissioned by Walter Hussey in c. 1954 are on show together. Piper's first piece of stained glass, together with his stained glass designs and cartoons, tapestries, photographs, drawings, collages, paintings and prints are also be on display in this major exhibition of his overwhelming artistic passion.


Herbert Howells - One Thing Have I Desired.

An attitude of openness

Jesus said that he had come that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10. 10). Jesus is able to give fullness of life because “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1. 19). It is out of that fullness that we receive grace upon grace” (John 1. 16).
This is why we are told to pray that we might “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge,” so that we may be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3. 18 & 19). We receive this fullness when, out of love, we don’t judge and don’t condemn but do forgive and give to others. As Jesus said in the Sermon of the Mount:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6. 37 & 38)

In other words, fullness comes from openness. Think for a moment of a cup or a glass or a chalice or any other container or receptacle that can hold a fluid. Each of these are specifically made to be open. They are designed to be open to receive.

If we place a lid on the container – if it is closed rather than open - then it cannot receive the water. The bottle can only be filled when it is open. Jesus’ image of “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” is of more than simply being filled. When we forgive and are forgiven, when we give and are given to, then we are receiving a constant flow of love which not only fills us but constantly spills over to others around us. That is what is promised to us, through Jesus, in scripture but it only occurs as we are open.

OPEN is the name of the fresh expression of church that you have begun here on Sunday afternoons. It is about the church being open for all who wish to come and open to a wide range of activities and creativity. The openness that OPEN is supposed to signify, though, is not simply about the practicalities of opening the church doors. Instead, it is much more about an attitude of mind; an attitude of openness to God, to others, to change and difference and newness.

It is an attitude of mind that, as Jesus said, we will not and cannot experience when we are judgemental, when we are condemning, when we are unforgiving or when we are not giving. Openness is demonstrated, Jesus said, through welcome, through acceptance, through forgiveness, and through giving. It is when we are open in these ways that we receive the fullness that God has been pleased to give to Jesus and that fullness spills over from us to those we meet.

We might think about OPEN as something for others – as a way of opening the church to connect with people who haven’t ordinarily come. If we are thinking that way, then we are saying it is not for me. We might even have already tried OPEN and decided that it isn’t for us. If so, we are closed rather than open. OPEN is not just an event or activities or outreach or a fresh expression, more importantly it is an opportunity to be open; to cultivate that attitude of openness through which we are able to receive God’s fullness and share it with others.

OPEN is an opportunity to be open to church looking and feeling different, open to those who don’t come to the usual church services, open to the creativity or conversation of those that we wouldn’t otherwise meet, and by meeting and greeting, welcoming and accepting all this, cultivating that attitude of openness through which we are able to receive God’s fullness and share it with others.


Eric Bibb - Forgiveness Is Gold.

The Good Samaritan

“In a pastoral society like ancient Israel, sheep and shepherds were used to describe the relationship of God with his people: ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ and ‘we are his people, the sheep of his pasture’ (Pss 23:1; 100:3)” (Richard A. Burridge, John). In Ezekiel 34. 15 - 16 God says, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will find them a place to rest … I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick.”

In Jesus’ time, sheep were very important as they provided both food and clothing. Shepherd’s had to have a nomadic lifestyle because of the available pasture. They had to travel with their sheep from one region to another as the seasons changed. This created the close relationship between sheep and shepherd that we hear Jesus describing and using in this reading:

“The Shepherd cares for his sheep, calls them by name, leads them to pasture and water, finds shelter for them in inclement weather, defends them against bandits and wolves, and willingly lays down his life for them. The sheep have great confidence in the shepherd. They recognize his voice, obey his commands, and they follow wherever he leads them” (
This is why the “image of Shepherd stood out in a special way in the minds of the early Christians. In the very first Christian cemeteries and worship places we find crude but definite artistic expressions of the depth and meaning this particular image had for Christians in the very first century of the Church's history. Images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd appear on the walls of the earliest churches and often as decorations on the tombs of Christian martyrs” ( So, the early Christian community cherished the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

“The word “good” (kalos …) means first and foremost beautiful – the good shepherd is attractive. At the same time he is good at his work. So this attractive and very skilled shepherd draws us to himself and is able to provide accurately for our needs” (Stephen Verney, Water into Wine)
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep:

“The word “life” (psychē …) is impossible to translate by any one English word. The psychē means the self, or the ego, or the soul. It can be the centre of our earthly life, or the centre of our supernatural life. If the shepherd lays down his psychē for the sheep he is offering them this centre of his inner life, in all its varied aspects …

It might mean that the attractive and skilful shepherd puts the whole of his mind and heart at the disposal of the sheep, through lambing time and shearing time, through summer days in the high mountains and through the cold winter days when food is scarce. Or it might mean that his skilled shepherding reaches this climax, that he is ready to lay down his earthly life to protect the sheep if they are attacked by wolves. Or it might mean, looking into the heart of the shepherd Jesus, that he lays aside his ego self for the sake of the sheep, and seeking their well-being rather than his own he receives from the Father his true Self” (Verney).
In whichever of these three ways or in all three together, the shepherd gives his own life so that the sheep can receive the superabundant life of God himself. Lesslie Newbigin writes that:
“Here is the unmistakable criterion by which true leadership is to be distinguished from false. We are familiar with the kind of leadership which is simply a vast overextension of the ego. The ultimate goal – whether openly acknowledged or not – is the glory of the leader. The rest are instrumental to this end. He does not love them but makes use of them for his own ends. He is a hireling – in the business of leadership for what he can get out it.
By contrast the mark of the true leader is that of the cross” (The Light Has Come).

The mark of the true leader then is courage. Courage, in the sense described by G. K. Chesterton who said, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die.” Literally speaking, courage comes from the Latin ‘cor,’ meaning heart. So when we open up to any experience fully, with courage — our whole heart — it naturally opens us up to a deep love. The Argentinian musician Facundo Cabral said, “If you are filled with love, you can’t have fear, because love is courage.” This seems to be another way of saying that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4. 18) and it must be love of us that enables Jesus to talk so freely, as the Good Shepherd, of laying down his life for us, his sheep.
“Jesus …is the good shepherd, who knows his own sheep as they know him (10:14). Shepherds called their sheep out of the fold by their names and the flock followed their voice (10:3-4). The Greek word for church literally means ‘called out’, ec-clesia, from which all our ‘ecclesiastical’ words are derived. Jesus’ knowledge of his sheep is rooted in his knowledge of his Father and his Father knowing him as his Son” (Burridge)
“… the Son can do nothing of himself, but he simply looks at the Father and whatever he sees the Father doing so he does too … the Father holds back nothing for himself but gives everything to the Son.
So it is, says Jesus, between the Good Shepherd and his sheep – between me and mine, and mine and me. They are in my heart, and there I see them in all their human ambiguity. I see what they are and what they can be, and I give myself to them. And I am in their hearts …
That is how the Good Shepherd knows his sheep, and how they know him. They do not simply know about him, or pass examinations in theology, or even read books about John’s gospel. They know him in their personal experience” (Verney).

“What is more, God’s love is universal, so the shepherd must also be concerned for ‘other sheep … not of this fold’, who will also hear his voice and be brought together into one flock (10:16)” (Burridge). Immediately before speaking of himself as the Good Shepherd there has been an incident where a blind man who had been healed by Jesus is rejected by the religious leaders and thrown out. What Jesus says here, about what he offers not being for a little exclusive group but for the whole human race, is in direct contrast “to the religious leaders’ concern to maintain their pure group and throw the blind man out.”      
“As we move towards the Passion, the inevitable result of his clash with the authorities, Jesus emphasizes that he lays down his life willingly, out of sheer love for his people, a love which flows even from the heart of God (10:17-18).
This is a challenge to all involved in the pastoral care of God’s people. It takes time and effort to know everyone individually, even as God knows us, and caring for them as Christ laid down his life for us may demand the ultimate sacrifice. The ordination charge for priests in the Church of England says ‘as servant and shepherd … set the Good Shepherd always before you as the pattern of your calling … to search for his children the wilderness of this world’s temptations … the treasure now to be entrusted to you is Christ’s own flock’. This is true whether we are an Archbishop or a bible study group leader, a minister or just visiting an elderly person around the corner – we love others as the good shepherd loves us.”
As Lesslie Newbigin writes, “This is the way for all humankind, and to follow this way is to learn the only true leadership.”


Keith Green - The Lord Is My Shepherd.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Realism is fiction

In Sculpting In Time, Tarkovsky quotes Dostoevsky as saying, "They always say that art has to reflect life and all that. But it's nonsense: the writer (poet) himself creates life, such as it has never quite been before him ..."
If Dostoevsky said it, then it must be true! But this statement also resonates with my own sense, through my own minor creative work, that realism is fiction. Any attempt to describe, recreate or re-present an actual experience always results in subtle changes to the experience. This is partly to do with time and partly to do with editing.

All experience is gained in the moment, in time, while all description, recreation or re-presentation is reflection on what has passed. The act of reflection is qualitatively different from the act of experience involving, as it does, perspective on the event which it is not possible to have at the time. This difference in time subtly effects the description, recreation or re-presentation of the past event changing it, albeit slightly, in the process.

All description, recreation or re-presentation of past events also involves editorial decisions about what to include/exclude and what perspective to give. Actual experience is a constant flow in time but no description, recreation or re-presentation can mimic the constant flow of events in time and therefore decisions have to be made about where to start and end thereby disrupting the actual flow of events as they were experienced. Much of what is viewed on television purports to be actual experience (i.e. news footage or reality TV) yet editors have always made decisions regarding where and what to film as well as, often, what to show. What is seen is always a glimpse of the actual influenced by an editor's perspective rather than the whole of what occurred.

In this sense, realism - even, or perhaps especially, hyper-realism - is a fiction.


Paul Weller - That Dangerous Age.

I am a sinner

The great Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi visited Andrei Tarkovsky on his deathbed. Zanussi, a good friend, was already well-known then; Tarkovsky understood that people would come to Zanussi in search of information about him. “Tell them,” he whispered to Zanussi, “that I am a sinner”:

"We met the very last time in December, nearly two weeks before his death, once again in Paris. He had undergone drug treatment and was appallingly thin and emaciated, but he continued to speak of the future, of what he would film. And when I listened to him it seemed to me that indeed a moment had come when it was unknown whether the treatment would kill him or he would overcome the illness.

He described the films he had failed to make, the Hoffmaniana. It was his old screenplay. Most of all he spoke about the picture focused on the figure of St Antony of Padova. And it seemed to me that the specific historical saint did not concern him particularly, he was much more interested in the notion of sanctity, the tragedy of a conflict between flesh and spirit in man. He said a word which struck me, the word "sinner" in respect to himself. Hardly anyone uses the word today, especially of one's own free will, and he related the word to himself, admitting the imperfection of his actions, and there was something eschatological about it. Nevertheless, I felt a deep hope that he would come through, because he said the word "sinner" an instant after both of us had agreed that modern man's most terrible sin was vanity, a feeling of conceit arising from the illusion that he was independent, a master of his fate, and nothing threatened him. And only illness enabled him to see the fragile nature of our undertakings, our decisions, our conflicts, and our policies which from this vantage point lost their meaning."


Henryk Gorecki - Symphony No. 3 "Sorrowful Songs" - Lento e Largo.

Art's triumph over grim truth

"Only a faithful statement about the artist's time can express a true, as opposed to a propagandist, moral ideal.
This was the theme of Andrey Rublyov. It looks at first sight as if the cruel truth of life as he observes it is in crying contradiction with the harmonious ideal of his work. The crux of the question, however, is that the artist cannot express the moral ideal of his time unless he touches all its running sores, unless he suffers and lives these sores himself. That is how art triumphs over grim, 'base' truth, clearly recognising it for what it is, in the name of its own sublime purpose: such is its destined role. For art could almost be said to be religious in that it is inspired by commitment to a higher goal.

Devoid of spirituality, art carries its own tragedy within it. For even to recognise the spiritual vacuum of the times in which he lives, the artist must have specific qualities of wisdom and understanding. The true artist always serves immortality, striving to immortalise the world and man within the world. An artist who doesn't try to seek out absolute truth, who ignores universal goals for the sake of accidentals, can only be a time-server."

Andrey Tarkovsky, Sculpting In Time


Gungor - Wake Up Sleeper.

Art talks and exhibitions

Following the Art and Sacred Places AGM internationally renowned Scottish artist David Mach RA will be talking about his ‘explosive and daring exhibition’ of over 70 new works of large scale collage and sculpture celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Described as ‘contrary, funny and wilfully unpretentious’, London-based David Mach, has said how he was ‘struck by how much The King James Bible is about how we speak now, the language of today comes off those pages’.

‘The Destruction of Jericho’ is viewed from the inside of a family people carrier and ‘The Nativity’ occurred in a post apocalyptic shack made of telegraph poles and upturned cars.

Saturday 12th May, 2012, 14.30-16.30. Studio 16, 21 Wren Street, LONDON, WC1X 0HF. £5 entry or FREE to members (pay on the day). Tel: 01489 878725 or Email: if you require further information.

Sheona Beaumont has a triple bill starting in May 2012, as part of the Bristol Festival of Photography:
  • Elemental: Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. 24th April - 27th May, St Stephen's Church. Exhibiting with Dennis Anthony. Elemental is an exhibition of photography and photo-based installations exploring the imagery of the elements, as seen through Christian spirituality and biblical symbolism. Both cafe walls (Dennis Anthony) and church space (Sheona Beaumont) will be transformed to bring contemplative and conceptual encounter to life.
  • The Colour of Landscape. 4th May - 2nd June, The Glass Room, Colston Hall. Exhibiting with Walter Dirks. As part of the Bristol Festival of Photography, Sheona Beaumont and Walter Dirks present photographic work exploring the rich, colourful and diverse landscapes of our planet. Their images range from global habitats to details of flora and fauna, combining awe-inspiring visions of nature-at-large and nature-up-close.
  • Bristol Through the Lens. 15th May - 2nd September, The Crypt Gallery, St George's Bristol. This series of 20 pieces is a photographic study of Sheona’s home city. Each image is made up of more than one photograph taken at different times of day/year/view. The work (which includes an essay on the subject) explores the landscape as a changing, animated scene, and shows views of Bristol, such as Cabot Tower and the Avon Gorge, through time and space in new and unseen ways.

Gillian Welch & Old Crow Medicine Show - The Weight.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Spiritual Life column

Here is my latest 'Spiritual Life' column in today's Ilford Recorder:

In a memorable phrase Desmond Tutu spoke of post-apartheid South Africa as being “the rainbow people of God.” That phrase can and should be applied also to the Christian Church in the diversity of those who come together within it to form the Body of Christ.

For the Church to be seen as a rainbow people of God, the full range of its diversity of views and voices need to be heard. Specifically, in the current debate over the definition of marriage, it essential that the Church, as well as hearing the views and voices of those opposed to the Government’s current legislative proposals, also hear the views and voices of Christians in favour.

I am thinking of those who see a strong Biblical case for arguing that definitions of marriage are socially determined and not divinely ordained. Those who see Jesus as being the ultimate scapegoat signalling, by his death, the folly and fallacy of all scapegoating of those different from ourselves. Those who see a key aspect of Jesus’ ministry as being to include in the kingdom of God those excluded from the religious structures of his day, with inclusion and equality then being a central facet of Christianity. The voices and views of those who see the institution of marriage being broadened and strengthened by its expansion to include people who value the institution and wish to marry but are currently excluded from doing so.

The Biblical picture of God’s people is of difference and diversity united by our common commitment to Christ. We are not and will not be united by our particular theologies, traditions, or views on particular topics. In this current debate, as in all such debates, we need to hear and respect different perspectives while recognising that our particular views will only divide if they are prioritised. It is only when, acknowledging our differences, we recognise that, despite our differences, we are united by Christ that the Christian Church holds together as the rainbow people of God who, therefore, become the Body of Christ in the world today.


Gungor - Let There Be.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The future of Christian Theology

Today I have been at the Barking Episcopal Area Annual Study Day which this year was entitled ‘The Future of Christian Theology’ and led by David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University. David is Acting Director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, the author of several books and editor of Modern Theologians. He is currently working on a theological commentary of St John’s Gospel.

He led us in exploring themes from his most recent book, The Future of Christian Theology (including ‘In a Secular Age: a ‘dramatic code’ for 21st century living,’ ‘Collegiality and Conversation,’ ‘Interfaith Blessing,’ and ‘The Apprentice Theologian’) and in Bible Study together on the Prologue to St John's Gospel.

He gave us two past points of reference for the future of Christian theology; the Prologue of John’s Gospel and the diversity of theologies developed during the twentieth century.

He thought of the Prologue of John’s Gospel as being the most influential single text from scripture because it is a superabundant text to which he is constantly responding. It is an illustration of Ricoeur’s idea that the meaning of a text goes ahead of the text i.e. go on generating new meanings. John’s Gospel was written in order to act like that.

He particularly valued Jean Vanier’s Commentary Drawn into the mystery of Jesus for its understanding of this Gospel’s theology of the endless richness of God. It is a succession Gospel which looks to the future. In the farewell discourses Jesus says you will do greater things than these and be guided into all truth; in action and understanding there will be more and more of what you have experienced to date. The Vanier take on this is that there will be more footwashing. The writer of the Gospel is utterly confident that God has more and more for us in future. God has a future full of good surprises for us; of superabundant love.

The writer of the Gospel has been given the Holy Spirit and is being led into all truth, so is able to write daring, extraordinary theology. The Prologue is a midrash on Genesis 1 interpreting that scripture in ways not articulated before. It is a theology which begins with the interpretation of scripture but is not dull repetition, rather daring interpretation in the Spirit. The writer of this Gospel is saying that good theology interprets scripture and this is done in the Spirit and in relation to Jesus (Christology).

Logos is a term that enables him to relate Jesus to the whole of the Hebrew scriptures (Septuagint). Logos is used for the commandments, the prophetic word, and wisdom literature - so embraces the Torah, the prophets and the wisdom writings. He is immersed in scripture, inhabiting it - he frequently uses the greek word meaning to dwell or inhabit. Logos is also an inter-cultural word as it was a common word in the Hellenistic culture of the day. So there is a dialogue between the Hebrew-Christian tradition and the surrounding culture.

Logos becomes a key term in the Church for developing a Christology. In doing so it was crucial to engage with wider world because all things came into being through Him. Jesus relates to all things, so theology can not ignore any aspect of reality; all peoples, all cultures, all religions - Jesus is involved with everything.

Light shines in darkness; a great natural symbol which sets our imaginations going as we ponder, what does light mean? Theology has to stretch imagination and therefore has to be involved with the Arts. As example, Ford spoke about his relationship with the poet Michael O’Siadhail. Both are each other’s first readers and this has had a remarkable effect on Ford’s theology.

This image is also the beginning of conflict in the Gospel. John is an utter realist about conflict and dualism. It is essential to face up to darkness and evil but he always leads you beyond that. John doesn’t leave you with dualism - darkness doesn’t overcome the light - but he takes the darkness of the cross seriously. Ford was present at a Rwandan service with dancers from genocide survivor communities. As the children began to dance there was a great wave of grief expressed by those widowed through the genocide. There was both ongoing terrible grief and affirmation, through the children dancing to God, that that wasn’t the last word - the cross and resurrection were experienced together.

John the Baptist was a man sent from God as a witness. Our faith is one which is dependent of historical truth. A trust in testimony is central to the Gospel. Belief involves the whole person, everything you are. Faith is inseparable from love.

"His own did not accept him" - the Johannine community had a painful break with the parent Jewish community and the bitterness and pain of that break is apparent here. The Johannine community prizes unity and love. This Gospel is not legalistic and has no Sermon on the Mount. There is an astonishing sense of showing God to the world. Jesus is seen in the way that the community loves one another. They are an intensive community in love for the sake of going out into the world as Jesus was sent (remembering that Jesus was crucified). Being born of God is our identity.

The Word became flesh and entered into history. This is paradoxical for Hellenistic frameworks of understanding. The glory seen in Jesus is that which is seen on the cross. The only mention of grace in the Gospel comes here, in grace and truth. This raises the question, what is John doing in relation to Paul? The answer is that he is doing new theology. Abundance and fullness is set against a packaged theology. There will be more and more truth and wisdom. We have received grace upon grace from Jesus’ fullness.

No one ever seen God but the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed Him. In John 1.18 the climax of this discussion of God and all things, the deepest secret of universe, is this the intimacy of love between the Father and the Son in the Spirit. At the end of the Gospel the beloved disciple leans on the breast of Jesus. We are all beloved disciples in the bosom of Jesus. This is where we are to dwell. We are to mutually indwell Jesus Christ. Vanier has a theology of talking with Jesus, sitting in the presence of the one who loves you.

It’s really just all about Jesus. Jesus leads us into all things. It is about whose face you live before, whose face is in your heart. This forms our identity. We are part of an ongoing drama of love and are not to be distracted by some of the other big frameworks that we might get into. Peter is asked, ‘Do you love me, feed my sheep.’ It doesn’t matter whether the beloved disciple lives to the second coming, the focus is on the ongoing ordinary drama of love - follow me and wash the feet of others.

So what is the future of theology in relation to John’s Gospel. We should be equally daring in our theology. This feels risky - what checks and balances are there? - but unless you grow the tree, you don’t have anything to prune.

The twentieth century was the most fruitful, creative century for theology with theologies from around the world, new voices emerging, such as the voices of women, and the growth of theological institutions. This is utterly unique and how much there is going on is a delight.

What are the key elements of wise and creative Christian theology? There are four elements:

  • retrieval - the sense that any decent theology has to re-engage with the sources of scripture and tradition;
  • engagement - a simultaneity of engagement with God, Church and World. If theology is weak on any of these three, it is unlikely to be wise or creative;
  • thinking - rigorous and imaginative thinking with the excitement of finding new concepts;
  • communication - often neglected but intrinsic to content including the need to take the preparation and delivery of sermons more seriously.
Bonhoeffer is the theologian who sums these up best in his own work.

The book of Job gives us a healthy ecology of approaches to faith and theology. Much theology is concerned with indicatives and imperators - this is what you believe and what you do - neat packages which don’t open out to other moods and themes. Job questions, imagines, experiments to try to make theological sense of his trauma without givinhg up on his desire for God. He knows that there is more to grasp. Theology can’t be all wrapped up because God cannot be wrapped up. We have to desire God more and more, this has to be the central mood. It is not, first of all, about us - obeying, inquiring, desiring - instead we are affirmed, questioned, commended, desired by God. Job’s friends offer neat packages. We need to desire God for God’s sake. The key to the book is does Job love (fear) God for nothing - as gift, for God’s sake.

Wisdom cries out and wisdom is a discernment of cries. In a parish, you are surrounded by cries. Ben Quash argues we need to improve the quality of disagreement. We will always have disagreements but need to be committed to loving our enemies. There is something wonderful about being in a church (like the Church of England) which tries to engage with disagreement publicly. At the first Primates meeting, the bishops wrestled with Ephesians - dividing wall comes down through death of Christ - and ended by saying that to turn away from a brother or sister in Christ is to turn away from the cross.

Scriptural reasoning suggests that there are no short cuts to long-term inter-faith engagements where faith is on the table. Much inter-faith engagement has been by those on the fringes of their faith and has been seen as a liberal thing to do. A focus on scriptures is more likely to engage those in the mainstream of each faith. Through scriptural reasoning, you go deeper into your own scriptures, into other scriptures, into the common good, and the community doing the scriptural reasoning - not looking for consensus but friendship. When you realise how deeply diverse all religions are, all generalisations dissolve.

Theology is done for the sake of the name. We do things for God’s sake. Unless that is there, you lose the joy. Like O’Saidhail writing poems about jazz and saying, the only end of jazz is jazz.

What we inhabit/dwell in is spirituality. The mystery of God is what comes as and when everyone testifies to God. "No one comes to the Father but by me," John reports Jesus as saying but John has already told in the Prologue that all things relate to Jesus. Karl Barth wrote that Christians are those who, in the light of Jesus Christ, are those who are permitted to hope the best for all people.


Jonathan Butler - Falling In Love With Jesus.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Windows on the world (193)

Canning Town, 2012


Paul Weller - Kling I Klang.

Print exhibition

Peter S Smith has an exhibition of prints at the Bridewell Theatre Bar Gallery which includes prints by students from the wood engraving print workshop that Peter teaches at St Bride.
Peter exhibits his paintings and prints in the UK and overseas with work in public and private collections, including Tate Britain and the Ashmolean Oxford, as well as teaching workshops in the visual arts. He is a Member of the Society of Wood Engravers and an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Painter/Printmakers.

In September 2006, Piquant Editions published a book about his printmaking called “The way I see it….” with an introductory essay by Calvin Seerveld.

Last year Peter was commissioned by St John's Leytonstone for a print to celebrate the completed restoration of the church. This print now features on the Art Trail for the Barking Episcopal Area and Peter held a small exhibition of prints and gave an art talk at the church as part of the Barking Episcopal Area Art Festival.


Jim White - Chase The Dark Away.

Ascension challenge, Pentecostal means

In Jesus, God became a human being. That is what we celebrate at Christmas and what is emphasised by Jesus in this post-resurrection appearance (Luke 24. 36 - 53). God becomes Emmanuel, one with us, one of us.

As we read in Colossians 1. 19 Jesus had in himself, as a human being, the full nature of God. In other words, he showed God to us as fully as God can be seen in human form. This is because the creator must limit himself when he becomes part of his creation and so in Philippians 2. 7 we also read that Jesus gave up all he had when he took the nature of a servant by becoming a human being and appearing in human likeness. 

For God to become a human being involved limitation. A helpful analogy is that of an artist and his/her self-portrait. The self-portrait is the artist (in that it looks just like the artist, being an accurate representation of him or her) but it is much more limited than the artist (being paint on canvas rather than living flesh and bones). For the eternal, creator God to become a mortal part of his creation involved a similar level of limitation. Among the limitations as a human being that Jesus willingly accepted was being born in a particular time and place (1st century Palestine) and living, ministering and dying only in that same time and place.

Jesus’ ascension was necessary then in order to overcome those limitations. Not so much by regaining his full divinity as by giving each of his followers his Spirit so that we can then be his hands and feet, his eyes, ears and mouth, his body in the world and throughout history. It is not possible for one person by himself to go to all peoples everywhere but it is possible for Christ’s disciples, his followers, to take his message and his Spirit from Jerusalem to all of Judea and Samaria and then to the ends of the earth.

The Gospel of Christ is able to go out into the whole world because we, the followers of Christ, are scattered throughout the world and can be his hands and feet, his eyes, ears and mouth, his body wherever we are. Suddenly, there are no limits on where the Body of Christ – his followers – can be. This is why, at his ascension, he says to his disciples, “you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth “(Acts 1. 8).

But this can only happen as we all play our own part in the Body of Christ. It can only happen as we act as the hands and feet, his eyes, ears and mouth, his body wherever we are. This is the challenge of the Ascension for us, but this challenge is combined with the promise that he will send his Spirit to us to empower and equip us to be his people, his Body, by doing what he would have done wherever we are. This is why he also says to his disciples, “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1. 8). 

For this reason, the Ascension and Pentecost are intimately linked. The Ascension provides the challenge – “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples” (Matthew 28. 19) – and Pentecost provides the means - “when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
2011 has been a year in which we at St John’s have responded to that challenge by focussing on the identification and development of the God-given talents of our congregation. Following on from the Vocations Sunday event we held in 2010, we have run the Diocese’s SHAPE, Care & Share and Child Protection courses, heard from different members of our congregation through video interviews about ministry in daily life, and over the course of the year identified people who could form our new Ministry Leadership Team, as well as seeing Charity Anyika take on her role as a new churchwarden, an expanded team take on the running of our Youth Group, Dr Winston Solomon licensed as an Authorised Local Preacher and Peter Humphrey take on the role of More Than Gold Champion. These developments also came in the light of the deanery Deployment of Ministry discussions during 2010 and our preparations for the end of Geoff Eze’s curacy at St Johns.
As a congregation, we thought and prayed about five areas of ministry here at St John’s on which we wanted to focus through a Ministry Leadership Team and also about which members of our congregation could provide strategic direction for each of these areas. By the end of 2011 we had identified those people who would form our Ministry Leadership Team which began in 2012. This team of people have begun meeting with the staff team and churchwardens to form the Ministry Leadership Team. Please do pray regularly and consistently for all involved.

We also completed two significant projects: the work on our Community Garden and also the refurbishment of the Fellowship Room. The Archdeacon of West Ham opened our Community Garden as part of a Creating Community day featuring information stalls from local community groups and a plant and table top sale. The success of this event reflected the positive regard in which St John’s is held among the local community because of our focus on community engagement through the St John’s Centre and our involvement in local community campaigns. The refurbishment of our Fellowship Room at the end of 2011 will, we hope, lead to more community activities/groups in the St John’s Centre.

One of our long running initiatives for serving the community, our MU-run Contact Centre, celebrated its 20th anniversary in September 2011.  Contact centres are an increasingly essential resource in the area of family support. Without them, the rights of many children to sustain a relationship with a departed parent in a safe place would be either undermined or lost completely. Another of the community services that St John’s people have consistently supported over the years – Redbridge Voluntary Care – was recognised in 2011 with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Our consistent support of mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was also celebrated in 2011 when we heard Judy Acheson sum up all that God has done in that country through her work as a CMS Mission Partner.

We took part in the 'Give A Bible' Bible Year 2011 initiative in the Diocese of Chelmsford to encourage Church members in the diocese to bring a Bible to church on Bible Sunday (23 October) with the intention of subsequently giving it to a neighbour, work colleague or friend. Our 'Give a Bible' initiative placed Bibles back in homes and schools as we chose a range of different translations and versions of the Bible to give away to work colleagues, grandchildren, relatives and friends. These included a Polish translation for one work colleague. Several St John's members also bought a children's storyteller version of the Bible to give to Downshall Primary School for future use in their RE lessons and we also gave Bibles to Aldborough E-Act Free School.
We saw several of our own people take significant milestones in their faith including baptisms and confirmations. Others studied our START course as an introductory exploration of the Christian faith as part of their increased involvement here at St John’s.
During this year, we were preparing for Geoff Eze to move on from his curacy here at St John’s. Geoff’s time at St John’s ended when he began a placement at St Mary’s Walthamstow before his appointment as Team Vicar to the parish of Stoke Minister in 2012. As a parish we are very grateful for all that Geoff contributed during his curacy including the Tuesday afternoon fellowship group, pastoral visiting, schools ministry, youth work and, of course, the vibrancy and challenge of his preaching. We wish him well and pray for him in his new ministry. As part of our own preparation for his move, we expanded our youth work team (from the congregation, the cluster and the deanery) in order to keep the Youth Club running. We are very grateful for all who have given extra time and commitment in order to maintain this important ministry.
Our text for 2011 was: “I'm absolutely convinced that nothing — nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable — absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8. 38-39 – The Message). In 2011, as this review of our year shows, we sought to live in the confidence that God’s ever-giving love brings into our lives and community.

2011 was in many ways a time of preparing for the future, while continuing to act as the hands and feet of God in our parish. The Ministry Leadership Team involves more of us in further developing our mission and ministry. The expansion of our Youth Work team gives a base for continuing our Youth Club. The refurbishment of the Fellowship Room will enable more groups to use our facilities providing more community services and addressing our financial issues. The arrival of a new curate will contribute to and support these developments and the growth in the numbers attending with young children.
There are many positive signs for the future as a result of all we have done together in the last five plus years. Our text for 2012 encourages us to run our race with determination by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. So, “let us run with the determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.”


Philip Bailey - All Soldiers.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Contemporary Fiction and Christianity

I have several books on order exploring issues of spirituality and faith in modern and contemporary literature.

In The Pen and the Cross: Catholicism and English Literature, 1850-2000 Richard Griffiths examines why some of the most outstanding writers of recent times have been Catholics - often converts, such as Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark and David Jones. Griffiths is concerned also to relate his story to movements on the continent and examines on his way the impact of French Catholic writers such as Huysmans, Peguy and Mauriac on their British counterparts and the influence of British Catholic writers such as Newman, Faber and Chesterton on Europe. Griffiths' book looks as though it should be one of the most comprehensive studies of the modern Catholic novel - a phenomenon about which I've posted here, herehere, here and here.

In Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 Amy Hungerford explores the work of major American writers, including Allen Ginsberg, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and Marilynne Robinson, and links their unique visions to the religious worlds they touch.
While in Contemporary Fiction and Christianity Andrew Tate examines the work of more than a dozen contemporary Anglo-American novelists, including John Updike, Douglas Coupland, John Irving, Michèle Roberts, Don DeLillo and Jim Crace. He shows how the 'sacred turn' in western culture is manifested within the novel from the 1980s to the present, paying particular attention to representations of such theological ideas as the miraculous, the heretical, the apocalyptic and the messianic.

Tate's book, which has arrived, looks to be a genuinely comprehensive survey taking in, in addition to those mentioned above: Sara Maitland - "perhaps the most combatively theological British prose writer of the last 25 years"; Donna Tartt - "a 'constant tension' between her committed Christian faith ... and her 'vocation as a novelist"; James Robertson - his "sensitive and intensely theological novel The Testament of Gideon Mack"; John L'Heureux - "a former Jesuit priest - examines the fragile division between faith and unbelief in The Miracle; Jonathan Coe - "suggests that the sacred is found in the midst of the profane"; David Maine - "The Flood ... the first of his series of biblically themed novels"; Rhidian Brook - "a relatively rare novel of religious conversion"; Yann Martel - "challenges the notion that the journey of faith ... is necessarily detrimental to morally complex, demanding fiction"; Pat Barker - "Christ is a startling, defamiliarizing and unique presence"; Norman Mailer - "curiously reverent The Gospel According to the Son";  Salley Vickers - "rewrites the myth of the angel in disguise"; Bernard Malamud - "reclaimed the tradition of the holy messenger"; Jodi Picoult and David Guterson - "focus on figures who claim to have seen and to have been spoken to by celestial beings"; Nick Hornby - explores miracle healings; Frederick Buechner - envisages a "liberating eternal or kairotic moment"; and Jon McGregor - "a celebration of the miraculous possibilities of the quotidian".

No survey, though, can be fully comprehensive and these don't seem to discuss the following: Tom Davies - "the core of all his books is religious"; Shusaku Endo - "compelling but profoundly flawed Christian protagonists"; Catherine Fox - "an exploration of fanaticism and salvation"; Susan Howatch - "known for ... religious and philosophical themes"; John Grisham - "The redemptive power of faith is a strong theme in The Testament"; P.D. James - "a writer whose work is imbued with deep Christian convictions"; Nicholas Mosley - "novelist whose work [is] often philosophical and Christian in theology"; Morris West - "writer whose deep interest in and commitment to Catholicism provided the central theme for nearly all of his thirty novels", Niall Williams - "takes spiritual issues seriously – and continues to write compellingly about them" or Tim Winton - "'to ignore Winton's Christianity is to ignore the elephant in the room", among others.


Bruce Springsteen - Land of Hope and Dreams.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Picasso, Duchamp and Craig-Martin

The blurb for Picasso and Modern British Art at Tate Britain states that Picasso remains the twentieth century’s single most important artistic figure, a towering genius who changed the face of modern art. This, in a sense, is stating the blindingly obvious and that the exhibition demonstrates this through the variety and vitality of the art which Picasso created.
The particular focus of this exhibition is on the reception which Picasso's work received in this country and some of the key artists influenced by that work. This is where the current status of Picasso's influence becomes less clear. All of the modern British artists in the exhibition, with the exception of David Hockney, are dead. Generally, the reputation and influence of these artists is (often undeservedly) not what it once was (particularly during their lifetimes). Again, Hockney with his recent and popular exhibition at the Royal Academy is to some extent an exception. But where this is leading is to question the extent to which the artists featured in this exhibition, including Picasso, are actually influencing contemporary art.

While Picasso and Matisse were the towering figures in twentieth century art and the principal influences on much modern art, in terms of influence on contemporary art they would appear to have been superceded by Marcel Duchamp who, by challenging the very notion of what art is with his readymades and by his insistence that art should be driven by ideas, became the father of Conceptual art.

In 2004 Duchamp's Fountain came top of a poll of 500 art experts to be named as the most influential modern art work of all time. Simon Wilson commented: "The choice of Duchamp's Fountain as the most influential work of modern art ahead of works by Picasso and Matisse comes as a bit of a shock. But it reflects the dynamic nature of art today and the idea that the creative process that goes into a work of art is the most important thing - the work itself can be made of anything and can take any form."

Michael Craig-Martin is one of those who have followed the logic of Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made by seeing everyday objects as models for works of art. Interestingly, and through a work (An Oak Tree) which can also be seen currently at Tate Britain, Craig-Martin asserts that this form of artistic creation equates to religious faith:

"An Oak Tree is based on the concept of transubstantiation, the notion central to the Catholic faith in which it is believed that bread and wine are converted into the body and blood of Christ while retaining their appearances of bread and wine. The ability to believe that an object is something other than its physical appearance indicates requires a transformative vision. This type of seeing (and knowing) is at the heart of conceptual thinking processes, by which intellectual and emotional values are conferred on images and objects. An Oak Tree uses religious faith as a metaphor for this belief system which, for Craig-Martin, is central to art. He has explained:

I considered that in An Oak Tree I had deconstructed the work of art in such a way as to reveal its single basic and essential element, belief that is the confident faith of the artist in his capacity to speak and the willing faith of the viewer in accepting what he has to say. In other words belief underlies our whole experience of art: it accounts for why some people are artists and others are not, why some people dismiss works of art others highly praise, and why something we know to be great does not always move us.

(Quoted in Michael Craig-Martin: Landscapes, [p.20].)"

It is interesting to note that, while the stylistic innovations of Picasso could be utilised to depict the central image of Christianity (i.e. the crucifixion, as in the work which Graham Sutherland painted for St Matthew's Northampton), it was through the innovations of Duchamp that the religious nature of artistic creation itself was deconstructed and demonstrated.


M. Ward - Clean Slate (For Alex & El Goodo).

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Contemporary choral music

While finding out more about Eric Whitacre, who is featured in the current edition of Gramophone, I also found out about a feast of other contemporary choral music:
A choral director and composer, Eric William Barnum continues to seek new ground musically. Working with choirs of all types and styles, his collaborative leitmotif endeavors to provide intensely meaningful experiences for singers and audiences. He was named the commissioned composer for 2007 Minnesota All-State Choir. He also received honorable mention in the 2006 Morton Gould Young Composer Competition and was a winner of the 2006 Vocal Essence Essentially Choral Competition. He was a recipient of both a Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship and a McKnight Foundation Grant in 2005. He was the Composer-in-Residence for Kantorei, a professional ensemble based in Denver, CO for the 2005-2006 season as well as the Composer-in-Residence for The Rose Ensemble, an acclaimed early music ensemble in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in 2004-2005. Barnum received a JCCP Composers Grant (funded by the Jerome Foundation in association with the American Composer's Forum) in 2004. He also was the winner of the Chanticleer Composer Competition in 2003 with She Walks in Beauty, premiered by the world-renowned ensemble.

Cary Boyce is artistic co-director and composer-in-residence of the production group and new music ensemble, Aguavá New Music Studio, which specializes in projects involving contemporary music. His music has been heard around the world in concerts and festivals in more than 25 countries, on nationally syndicated public radio and television, and in two films by Prix-de-Rome-winning director Evelyne Clavaud, Aria ou les rumeurs de la Villa Medicís, and her artistic documentary Mandiargues: L’amateur d’imprudence. His oratorio, Dreams within a Dream, was the subject of a public radio special released in 2004. Boyce’s Ave Maria was featured on the Dale Warland Singers’ Cathedral Classics nationally syndicated radio special, as well as on their concerts in Minnesota. Boyce’s music, often performed by Aguavá New Music Studio, has also been featured on such syndicated shows as Harmonia, Center Stage from Wolftrap, CD-Tipp (Europe), and syndicated on Deutsche Welle. His cantata, Ave Maris Stella, was premiered by Aguavá at the International Festival Cervantino in Mexico, and subsequently broadcast throughout Latin America by the BBC. His Hodie Christus natus est premiered at Washington National Cathedral’s 50th anniversary holiday concert, winning the National Young Composers Award. His quartet, Nightshade, was recorded for Aguavá by the Corigliano String Quartet. Current projects include The Flower of Departure, a concerto for viola, chorus, and orchestra.

At the end of 2009, Andrew Cusworth wrote On music, a setting of two poems by Emily Dickinson, for the 40th anniversary of the Griffon Choir as well as completing From Castle Hill, a piece for recorder and strings written for the recorderist and new music enthusiast John Turner. The completion of these two works and their warm reception reignited Andrew's passion for composition and initiated a new phase in his musical career. In April 2010 he composed Factum est silentium which subsequently won the first New Music for St Paul's Cathedral Composition Competition. Out of this came a commission to write a piece for the Christmas concert of the Rhinegold Singers the result of which, There is no rose, will soon be published by Novello. Shortly after, Andrew wrote Drop down, ye heavens for St John's Compline Singers and conducted its first performance in St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, at their first Christmas by Candlelight service. His first piece of 2011, Give ear, O ye heavens was shortlisted for the King James Bible Trust Composition Awards and received its premiere at the final of the competition in the Temple Church, Fleet Street, London that May. During the Academic Year 2010-11, Andrew was again at Magdalene College, Cambridge, as a member of the inaugural class of the University's new M.Mus. in Choral Studies. In order to accommodate this he took a short break from composing over the Summer, concentrating instead on the remainder of his studies, which he completed in August 2011. Towards the end of 2011 Andrew completed and premiered the brief Christmas Carol Adam lay ibownden as well as setting the hymn text Ave maris stella in completion of a commission for Choir and Organ magazine in partnership with Salisbury Cathedral. The latter received its first performance at an evening Eucharist at Salisbury Cathedral on Monday, 26th March.
Tomas Dusatko. Composer, teacher, guitarist, pianist, b Toronto 12 Sep 1952; B MUS (Toronto) 1975, M MUS (Toronto) 1976. Tomas (John George) Dusatko. Composer, teacher, guitarist, pianist, b Toronto 12 Sep 1952; B MUS (Toronto) 1975, M MUS (Toronto) 1976. Dusatko's oeuvre divides into two periods. Between 1971 and 1980 he was relatively prolific, completing more than a dozen works, and favoured a dense atonal style, intellectually rigorous in content and form. Typically in this period, the integrity of a work came from the consistent use of basic materials - for example, chords built entirely of seconds or thirds (Transformations), or given intervals deployed according to a complex mathematical ratio (Diasteme, 1980) - to dictate harmonic and melodic events. In the Melos solos, small, melodically and rhythmically distinct motives are subjected to intense development until exhausted. The Melos and Nomos works also reflect Dusatko's interest in ancient Greek melody and theory. Dusatko wrote only a handful of pieces between 1981 and 1990, but a major stylistic change was apparent. Works such as O Sancta Simplicitas are more intuitive and dramatic (at times, almost frighteningly intense), and draw more inspiration from traditional music; in Gentle Madness and Traces of Becoming, tonality and atonality are freely juxtaposed.

Dan Forrest was born in Elmira, NY, in 1978. He holds graduate degrees in piano performance and composition. His composition teachers have included James Barnes, Dwight Gustafson, Joan Pinkston, and Alice Parker. Dan’s works have won numerous contests, awards, and acclamations, including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award, the ACDA Raymond Brock Competition, the Donald Sutherland Endowment Composition Contest, the Raabe Prize, the University of Kansas Choral Society Composition Contest, the Vanguard Premieres Choral Competition, the John Ness Beck Foundation Prize, the Anthony Cius Award, and annual ASCAP Standard Awards since 2003. He was also recently named a finalist in the 2009 Frank Ticheli International Band Composition Contest. Dan has published music in various genres and styles with numerous publishers. He regularly receives commissions for both choral and instrumental works. He has his own choral series with Hinshaw Music, "The Music of Dan Forrest". His choral works (church and concert) have received favorable reviews in the ACDA Choral Journal, as well as numerous Editor’s Choice designations from Pepper Music and Creator Magazine.
Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) was born in Norway in 1978, and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, from which he graduated with a Master’s Degree in ’06, after two years at the Royal College of Music in London. Ola’s published concert works are performed all over the world, and his debut recording as a pianist-composer, the lyrical crossover album Stone Rose, was released to critical acclaim in 2007 on the 2L label. Many of Ola’s choral works are featured on Phoenix Chorale/Charles Bruffy’s CD on the Chandos label, Northern Lights (2012), which is devoted entirely to his music for choir.

Stephen Hatfield - Canadian composer, conductor, clinician, workshop leader, lecturer -- specializing in choral music. “Stephen Hatfield's music excites, challenges, and is utterly compelling. His voice is completely unique in the choral world, and no choir should be without his music in their repertoire.” - Bob Chilcott. “Hatfield's voice is strong and evocative, yet his music is always presented with an elegantly simple and accessible language. His uncanny sense of unity between text and melody along with the use of textures, patterns and rhythmic layers bring the diverse sounds and atmospheres of the world to the classroom and concert stage. His music is a must for today's choral ensembles.” - Dr. Lee Willingham: Bell'Arte Singers; Faculty of Music, Wilfrid Laurier University.

American composer William Hawley's music has been heard in London, Tokyo, Paris, New York, the Netherlands, Berlin, Darmstadt, Munich, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and other cities in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. A longtime Manhattanite, he now makes his home on the coast of Maine with his wife, Jyoti. Hawley was born in 1950 in Bronxville, New York into the family of an English professor and poet. He was drawn early to the arts, and, following the path of music, found his métier as a composer during his student years at the Ithaca College School of Music and the California Institute of the Arts (BFA, 1974; MFA, 1976). Although his mentors were of the avant-garde (Morton Subotnick, Harold Budd, James Tenney, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman), upon entering the professional world he felt compelled to reconsider the fundamental cultural rôle of music composition, with a view towards reintegrating the emotional and spiritual elements of pre-20th Century Western classical music with the technical and conceptual acquisitions of Modernism, as well as the then newly-rediscovered influences of Indian and East Asian classical forms. Beginning his creative life primarily as an instrumental composer, he gradually found his work assuming a deeper expression in the realm of vocal music, unaccompanied as well as with instruments in chamber and orchestral combinations, which, through the illustration and illumination of poetry in sound, has through the ages borne the ability to elevate and enlighten the human mind and spirit.
Howard Helvey (b. 1968) resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is active as a composer, arranger and pianist, and serves as organist & choirmaster of historic Calvary Episcopal Church. Nationally and internationally he is in frequent demand as a composer, conductor, speaker, and member of the Steinbach/Helvey Piano Duo. Known particularly for his choral music, Helvey maintains an extremely active writing schedule, and his hundreds of compositions and arrangements are published by Beckenhorst Press, Hinshaw Music, Oxford University Press, Boosey & Hawkes, Alliance Music, Lawson-Gould, E.C. Schirmer, Paraclete Press and Roger Dean, among other companies. Recordings of his music appear on the Gothic, Innova, Pro Organo, Cedille and Spektral (Germany) record labels. He is commissioned frequently by church, university, and professional ensembles, and recent performance highlights have been presented by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Kansas City Chorale, Chicago a cappella, the Turtle Creek Chorale (Dallas), the Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola (New York), the Bach Society of Saint Louis, the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, Kammerchor Constant (Cologne), and Pro Musica (Copenhagen)—and by university/collegiate choirs from Stanford, Harvard, Concordia, Luther, Texas A&M and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory. He received international awards in 2002, 2003 and 2006 (as first prize winner) from the John Ness Beck Foundation, who annually recognize outstanding achievement in choral composition.
Ruth Watson Henderson has an international reputation as one of Canada’s leading composers and as an admired pianist and organist. Known especially as a composer of choral works, she has done much to promote the artistry of children through her wealth of compositions for treble voices, using the expertise gleaned over the 28 years she served as the accompanist of the Toronto Children’s Chorus under Jean Ashworth Bartle, until they both retired in 2007. She has at the same time written a wide spectrum of works for adult choirs - an activity started while she was accompanist of the Festival Singers under Dr. Elmer Iseler. Her works are acclaimed, performed and recorded worldwide. Her pieces are often featured as the title track on recordings, such as My Heart Soars (TCC), Come, Ye Makers of Song (TCC), The Last Straw (Amabile Boys Choirs) and When Music Sounds (Oriana Singers). The Elmer Iseler Singers released a CD, Sing All Ye Joyful, devoted to the works of Ruth Watson Henderson. William Littler, writing in the Toronto Star, refers to this recording as "long overdue", and states that Ruth’s "years as an accompanist for Elmer Iseler contributed to an understanding of the expressive possibilities of choral sound that has given birth to some of the most singable choral music in the Canadian literature."

Blake Henson has been praised for his music that Gramophone Magazine says "moves from soothing sentiments to more exultant territory with exceptional harmonic vibrancy; it casts a spell that must be even more thrilling when heard in live performance," and the New Jersey Star-Ledger called "powerful and thoughtful at the same time." Sought after for his choral, vocal, and orchestral work, Dr. Henson has received numerous commissions from colleges and high schools, churches, community choruses and orchestras, and professional ensembles, including Chanticleer, Westminster Choir, Kantorei, Williamson Voices, Anam Cara, Masterwork Chorus and Orchestra, The Thomas Circle Singers, and the New Jersey Chamber Singers.

Christopher J. Hoh was born in 1959 in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he grew up studying piano, organ, theory, harmony and several instruments. As a young singer and accompanist, he cites learning great contemporary works under the batons of Kerry Krebill and Donald Hinkle as major influences. His workshop experience includes Jean Berger, Daniel Moe, Robert Page, Timothy Seelig, Alice Parker and Craig Jessop, among others. Most of his music is choral, in a modern classical vein, although he has written some instrumental pieces and experimented with electronic timbres. Recent years saw premieres of "Evening Music: Five Sarton Poems" in Maryland, Montana and Virginia, as well as Spain, Slovenia and Italy. . His "Dona Nobis Pacem" from "Three Latin Prayers" has been performed many places including on New Year's Eve in Alexandria, Va, and at the ancient amphitheater ruins in Ephesus, Turkey. St. Monica & St. James Episcopal Church on Washington's Capitol Hill commissioned for Pentecost 2009 "From Heaven There Came A Sound" for children's and adult choirs, piano and percussion. These choirs have also performed several other Hoh pieces, including "There's A Wideness in God's Mercy," “Blest Zion, I Love Thee" (All Saints Day) the premiere of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” and a reprise of "Stars of the Morning" (written for them). ERM Media has recorded three CD's with his music, including "Snow-Flakes" (Longfellow) for mixed chorus and celesta (2009), "You Are God" (Te Deum) for SATB Choir and chamber orchestra (2011), and "Sanctus & Benedictus" for SATB Choir and strings (2011).  

Ilyas Iliya’s earliest musical memories are of singing in a boys’ school choir in Beirut, Lebanon. At age 8, he was moved by the poignancy and romance in a movie about the Vienna Boys Choir. Fairuz, the renowned Lebanese chanteuse, captivated his love of drama and music. Later, when the civil war forced his family to immigrate, Fairuz became a source of solace and nostalgia.  He studied classical guitar, piano and cello and has been most drawn to writing choral, vocal and chamber music. His choral works have been performed in San Francisco, New York and Hawaii (ACDA). The most recent commission by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Safeer el-Layl, debuted at Davies Symphony Hall; the premiere received overwhelming audience response and garnered critical acclaim. Performers of his choral works have included San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Robert Geary’s Ancora, Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, The Brearley School Chorus and Absalon.  More recent works include explorations of chant and sacred liturgy recorded in historic acoustic environments. Current projects include an innovative polyphonal chant-inspired recording mix of his own voice due for release in 2009.

Gabriel Jackson was born in Bermuda in 1962. After three years as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral he studied composition at the Royal College of Music, first in the Junior Department with Richard Blackford and later with John Lambert, gaining his BMus in 1983. While at the College he was awarded the R O Morris Prize for Composition in 1981 and 1983 and in 1981 he also won the Theodore Holland Award. In 1992 he was awarded an Arts Council Bursary. Particularly acclaimed for his choral works, his liturgical pieces are in the repertoires of many of Britain’s leading cathedral and collegiate choirs and in 2003 he won the liturgical category at the inaugural British Composer Awards.

A recent exhaustive survey shows that Karl Jenkins is now the most performed living composer in the world. Educated at Gowerton Grammar School, Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music, London, The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace alone has been performed nearly 1000 times in 20 different countries since the CD was released while his recorded output has resulted in seventeen gold and platinum disc awards. It was in jazz that he initially made his mark. This was followed by a period with Soft Machine, one of the seminal bands of the 70’s. After this period as a media composer, his return to the music mainstream was initially marked by the success of the Adiemus project. Adiemus, combining the ‘classical’ with ethnic vocal sounds and percussion with an invented language, topped classical and ‘pop’ charts around the world. His output includes the harp concerto ‘Over The Stone’ commissioned by HRH the Prince of Wales for the Royal Harpist, Catrin Finch, Euphonium Concerto for David Childs, the concertante ‘Quirk’, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Colin Davies as part of its 2005 centenary season, Tlep written for virtuoso violinist Marat Bisengaliev and In These Stones Horizons Sing, featuring Bryn Terfel, Catrin Finch with the WNO Orchestra & Chorus whichwas premiered at the Royal Gala opening of the Welsh Millennium Centre in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen. Recent CD releases include Requiem, “Kiri Sings Karl” with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa., This Land Of Ours with the Cory Band [world brass band champions]], Stabat Mater, Quirk, a collection of concertos which includes La Folia, commissioned by Dame Evelyn Glennie, Stella Natalis and Gloria, premiered by a chorus of 2,500 at the RAH in July 2010.
Oklahoma native, Nathan Jones, is a promising young composer published by both GIA Publications and G. Schirmer/Hal Leonard. His music is performed throughout the United States, South Korea and Taiwan. He has been commissioned by both high school and collegiate choirs as well as collegiate wind ensembles. “I would live in your love,” has been recorded by the Westminster Choir and is commercially available on iTunes and Amazon. A graduate of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Nathan holds a Master of Music degree in Theory and Composition. At Westminster, he sang in both the Symphonic Choir and Westminster Choir.
Rupert Lang took his first degree (B.Mus. Honours in performance) at the University of Manitoba. He went on to England where he studied at The Royal School of Church Music, receiving the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Certificate in Church Music and a diplomas from The Royal College of Music and Royal College of Organists. Lang completed his studies in England at the University of Cambridge, St. John’s College, receiving an MA (Music) studying with George Guest, Gillian Weir and John Scott. As composer, Lang has written innovative music such as Spirit of the Child and Cantate Domino and more extended works like Magnificat for soprano soloist and men’s choir which was commissioned and recorded by Chor Leoni Men’s Choir. His compositions are often premiered by Christ Church Cathedral Choir and The Vancouver Children’s Choir, but other commissions have come from Central Bucks West High School (Pennsylvania), Vancouver Cantata Singers, Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, The Calgary Girl’s Choir, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Vancouver Men’s Chorus, Elektra Women’s Chorus and The World of Children’s Choirs 2001 Symposium. Through conducting, playing and composing, Lang continues to be committed to ministry through music in the church and to the teaching of children.
In speaking of Morten Lauridsen's sacred works in his book, Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple describes Lauridsen as "the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered... From 1993 Lauridsen's music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century's end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer."

Stephen Mager has been composer-in-residence for the Bach Society of Saint Louis since 2004. He has written extensively for chorus and orchestra, and his works have been performed by such distinguished ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus; VocalEssence, Minneapolis; and the Dallas Symphony Chorus. His choral symphony, Sinfonia Pastorale, received its Saint Louis premiere in 1997 with the Bach Society, to critical praise: “…the music does indeed have a painterly quality to it. The orchestration is complex and colorful, and the music is inclined to linger over beautiful images… [Mager] writes gratefully for the voice…” (Saint Louis Post-Dispatch). The Bach Society has commissioned several of his major choral works: an Easter choral cycle, The Lamb’s High Feast (2005); I saw eternity (2006); and in 2008, Missa lucis (“Mass of Light”), aptly described as “lushly lyrical” (Saint Louis Post-Dispatch). His carol settings have also received critical attention and are featured on the compact disc, Joy for Every Age (1998). “These excellent carol settings . . . exhibit a slightly different kind of charm and sophistication that owes much to their more expansive . . . fully integrated orchestrations” (David Vernier, His carols are featured on a dozen or more commercial recordings by choral ensembles in the United States.

Conductor and composer, J. Aaron McDermid is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Jamestown College. Prior to his arrival in Jamestown, McDermid was the Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tucson Masterworks Chorale, where he conducted performances of the Bach St. John Passion, Duruflé Requiem, Bach Magnificat, and Brahms Nänie. He was also the Assistant Conductor of the internationally acclaimed University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club, and Choral Director at Northfield High School in Northfield, Minnesota where he was named 1999 Outstanding Young Choral Conductor by ACDA of Minnesota. Aaron’s compositions are performed by choirs throughout the United States and Europe, including performances at ACDA National Conventions, the Kentucky, North Dakota, and Tennessee All-State Choirs, the International Honor Choir in Berlin, Germany, and the Australian National Choral Association Honor Choir in Melbourne, Australia.
Described in the New York Times as, ‘one of the most important composers to have emerged in Welsh choral music since William Mathias… A real and original talent’, Paul Mealor’s music has rapidly entered the repertoire of choirs and singers around the world. His music has been described as having, ‘serene beauty, fastidious craftsmanship and architectural assuredness… Music of deep spiritual searching that always asks questions, offers answers and fills the listener with hope…’ His sacred motets, songs and cycles have been performed, broadcast and recorded by artists in the UK, USA and much further afield.
Philip Moore was born in London in 1943. He received his musical education at the Royal College of Music, where he studied organ, piano, composition, and conducting. His career has since led him through a succession of the UK's most respected choral institutions, where he has built on his expertise on the great Cathedral performance traditions. During his student years he was Organist and Choirmaster at St Gabriel's Church, Cricklewood, and on graduating in 1965 he was appointed to the music staff at Eton College. In 1968 he moved to become Assistant Organist at Canterbury Cathedral, and in 1974 he succeeded Dr Barry Rose as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Guildford Cathedral. Moore has written music for each of the choirs with whom he has been associated, and also to commission from many others. Perhaps best known from Moore's library of music is the Antiphon, which the Royal School of Church Music published in 1988. Written for Allan Wicks on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as Organist of Canterbury Cathedral, it was originally scored for a choir of seven parts. The published version has the voices reduced to four, although the other parts are there as an alternative. The text is George Herbert's familiar poem Let all the world in every corner sing. Possibly the most requested of Moore's music is that published by Boosey & Hawkes in 2002, Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Morning and Evening prayers surround those intended for times of distress in this poignantly attractive setting for unaccompanied choir.

Born in London in 1978, Tarik O'Regan was educated at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His work has garnered two Grammy® nominations (including Best Classical Album) and two British Composer Awards. 2012 sees the opening of a new ballet, set to his orchestral music, by the Dutch National Ballet and a commission from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, which will be premiered and toured late in the year. 2011 marked the premiere Heart of Darkness, O'Regan's opera based on Joseph Conrad's novel of the same name, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the release of Acallam na Senórach¸ his third album on the Harmonia Mundi label. He has held the Fulbright Chester Schirmer Fellowship at Columbia University and a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard. Other appointments in recent years include positions at Trinity and Corpus Christi Colleges in Cambridge, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Yale University.
Tarik O'Regan's music is published by Novello & Company.
Imant Raminsh was born in Ventspils, Latvia; emigrated to Canada at an early age and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, University of Toronto, Akademie Mozarteum, Salzburg, The University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. His music is tonal, romantic; has received many commissions and performances worldwide. He is founding conductor of the New Caledonia Chamber Orchestra (now the Prince George Symphony) and the Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Okanagan, among others. Works by Imant Raminsh include: Magnificat for Mezzo Soprano solo, SATB chorus and orchestra or piano, Gloria for SATB chorus and orchestra or piano and Songs of the Lights for female chorus and orchestra or piano. "The Choral Music Experience of Imant Raminsh is all at once powerful and gentle, lyrical and poetic … Imant’s choral music celebrates our musical heritage and envisions our musical future." – Doreen Rao.

Award-winning composer Jake Runestad (b. 1986) is noted for his versatility and wide range of expressive capabilities with music driven by soaring melodies, driving rhythms, and lush textures.Considered “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “…a voice for the future of composition” (Jeffrey Biegel, pianist), Jake’s diverse musical experiences, spanning several continents, have inspired him to create music that captures the emotional vibrancy of life experiences while transcending diverse musical genres. A diverse composer, Mr. Runestad has a prolific output represented in many genres including music for wind band, chorus, orchestra, chamber ensembles, jazz ensemble, and opera. He has traveled extensively to experience new cultures and musical sounds and for his bachelor’s degree in music education, he completed his student teaching in Lima, Perú . There, he immersed himself in the musical culture and studied cajón, a traditional Peruvian percussion instrument, with acclaimed percussionist María Del Carmen Dóngo.

No composer has made such an impression on contemporary Swedish musical life as Sven-David Sandström. His catalogue of works, which includes some 300 compositions, gives proof not only of an impressive productivity, but also contains an amazingly wide range: everything from magnificent operas and oratorios to intimate choral and chamber music. With his unlikely combination of creativity and diligence in the craft of composition, restless curiosity and firmly-rooted mastery of form, Sandström alternates, to all appearances unconcerned, between a sophisticated orchestral texture and musical melodies, film music and music for the church. In the 2000s he has focused especially on sacred choral music. In 2008, when his ten-year professorship in composition at the prestigious Bloomington University in Indiana came to an end, he was able to realize a long-cherished dream: to compose, like Bach, for all the feast days of the ecclesiastical year. He has gladly taken upon himself to deliver music on a regular basis: one work every other week. The compositional process evolves in close cooperation with the musical ensembles at Stockholm Cathedral and Gustaf Sjökvist. But also with choir leader Mona Ehntorp in the Stockholm suburb of Hässelby's congregation, and its more modest resources. This is a gift, as unique as it is generous, to the Swedish Church and its active musical life. Sandström's complete church-year cycle was scheduled to be finished by the spring of 2011, and with 65 works to cover all the Sundays. The major part of these works is music of varying complexity for a cappella choir, but there are also cantatas for soloist and organ, as well as purely instrumental works.
Jonathan Santore’s compositions have engaged and excited performers and audiences throughout the United States and Europe. Named a 2010 Individual Artist Fellow by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, he serves as Composer in Residence for the New Hampshire Master Chorale, which won a “Best of NH 2008” award from New Hampshire Magazine for works he created for the ensemble.  His works have been performed by ensembles including VocalEssence, Conspirare, the Choir of Rochester Cathedral, England, and the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra, and have been broadcast regionally by Maine Public Television and nationally by Public Radio International. He has conducted performances of his own compositions in the United States and Europe, and his works have been recorded by the Octagon New Music Ensemble and published by Alliance Music, American Carillon Music Editions, Gold Branch Music, Manduca Music, Walton Music, and Yelton Rhodes Music.
R. Murray Schafer is Canada's pre-eminent composer and is known throughout the world. In an era of specialization, R. Murray Schafer has shown himself to be a true renaissance man. Born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1933, Murray Schafer has won national and international acclaim not only for his achievement as a composer but also as an educator, environmentalist, literary scholar, visual artist and provocateur. After receiving a Licentiate in piano through the Royal Schools of Music (England) in 1952, he pursued further studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, followed by periods of autodidactic study in Austria and England which encompassed literature, philosophy, music and journalism. A prolific composer, he has written works ranging from orchestral compositions to choral music as well as musical theatre and multi-media ritual. His diversity of interests is reflected by the enormous range and depth of such works as Loving (1965), Lustro (1972), Music for Wilderness Lake (1979), Flute Concerto (1984), and the World Soundscape Project, as well as his 12-part Patria music theatre cycle. His most important book, The Tuning of the World (1977), documents the findings of his World Soundscape Project, which united the social, scientific and artistic aspects of sound and introduced the concept of acoustic ecology. The concept of soundscape unifies most of his musical and dramatic work, as well as his educational and cultural theories.
Terry Schlenker studied music composition at the University of North Dakota and at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, from which he holds a Master of Art’s Degree in Composition. A composer of many orchestral, piano, and chamber works, Schlenker has focused much of his recent energy on a cappella choral music. His choral works are widely recorded, published, and have been performed internationally on five continents. For Schlenker, to compose music is not to engage in an esoteric, intellectual exercise, but to articulate beauty, to express his deepest self, and to make a connection with the spiritual, both for himself and for others.
Joshua Shank is quickly becoming recognized as a talented and innovative young composer whose music has been widely performed by educational and professional ensembles alike. His music has been called “jubilant…ethereal” (Santa Barbara News-Press) and “evocative and atmospheric…distilling a sustained mood most impressively” (Gramophone). He has enjoyed relationships with some of the most exciting choral ensembles in the United States as well as abroad and has been commissioned by organizations such as Kantorei (Denver), Choral Arts Ensemble of Rochester, Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, Northern Arizona University, Nebraska Children’s Chorus, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, The Esoterics (Seattle), the Minnesota All-State Choir and Chapman University (California). In 2002, he became the youngest composer ever awarded the Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Award by the American Choral Directors Association. The winning piece, "Musica animam tangens" (written at the age of 20), was premiered at the 2003 ACDA National Convention in Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center and has since been performed and recorded from Los Angeles to South Africa. He served as contributor to the second volume of Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir and his best-selling choral work, "The Boy Who Picked Up His Feet to Fly," was featured in Tom Carter’s Choral Charisma: Singing with Expression.

Frank Ticheli’s music has been described as being “optimistic and thoughtful” (Los Angeles Times), “lean and muscular” (New York Times), “brilliantly effective” (Miami Herald) and “powerful, deeply felt crafted with impressive flair and an ear for striking instrumental colors” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel). Ticheli (b. 1958) joined the faculty of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition. From 1991 to 1998, Ticheli was Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony, and he still enjoys a close working relationship with that orchestra and their music director, Carl St. Clair. Ticheli is well known for his works for concert band, many of which have become standards in the repertoire. Ticheli is the winner of the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2. Other awards for his music include the Charles Ives and the Goddard Lieberson Awards, both from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Walter Beeler Memorial Prize, and First Prize awards in the Texas Sesquicentennial Orchestral Composition Competition, Britten-on-the-Bay Choral Composition Contest, and Virginia CBDNA Symposium for New Band Music. Ticheli received his doctoral and masters degrees in composition from The University of Michigan. His works are published by Manhattan Beach, Southern, Hinshaw, and Encore Music, and are recorded on the labels of Albany, Chandos, Clarion, Klavier, Koch International, and Mark Records.

Richard Toensing was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 11, 1940.He received his B. Mus . degree with honors from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1962, and the M.M. (1963) and D.M.A. (1967) degrees from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Ross Lee Finney and Leslie Bassett. Toensing returned to the University of Michigan for post-doctoral work in electronic music in the summer of 1968. His first academic appointment was at Upsala College, East Orange, New Jersey, where he served as Instructor in Fine Arts (later Assistant Professor) and Director of the Upsala Choirs from 1966 till 1972. He then accepted a position at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he served as Assistant Professor, later Associate and Full Profesor of Composition, and as the Director of the University's Electronic Music Studio, New Music Festival, and New Music Ensemble. He has served as Chair of the Composition/Theory Faculty at Colorado from 1984 to 2001. Toensing has won numerous awards for composition, including the Joseph H. Bearnes Prize from Columbia University, two BMI student composer awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a commission from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow three times. His compositions span a variety of styles, from the gestural, free atonal work of the 60's and 70's to a renewed interest in various forms of diatonic music in more recent years. He has written numerous works for chorus, chamber music in various genres, and works for large ensembles. His music has been influenced by Russian Orthodox chant, Lutheran chorales, and also by the works of other composers: Schuetz, Gesualdo, Varese, Finney, and Paert.

Eric Whitacre is one of the most popular and performed composers of our time, a distinguished conductor, broadcaster and public speaker. His first album as both composer and conductor on Decca/Universal, Light & Gold, won a Grammy® in 2012, reaped unanimous five star reviews and became the no. 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of release. His second album, Water Night, was released in April 2012 and went straight to no. 1 in the classical iTunes chart on the day of release. It features seven world premiere recordings and includes performances from his professional choir, the Eric Whitacre Singers, the London Symphony Orchestra, Julian Lloyd Webber and Hila Plitmann.

James Whitbourn has an international reputation as a composer of choral music and as a composer for film & television and concert hall. After studying music at Oxford University, he began his career as a BBC producer. His compositional output has been influenced by that background and is admired for its direct connection with performers and audiences worldwide. His largest composition is the concert-length choral work, Annelies, which sets words from The Diary of Anne Frank, and which was premiered by Leonard Slatkin at London's Cadogan Hall in 2005. His choral works have been performed on every inhabited continent in the world, especially the Son of God Mass, which is regularly performed throughout the United States, Europe and other parts of the world. His choral music has been recorded by the Choir of Clare College Cambridge, Commotio and the Westminster Williamson Voices, on Et cetera and Naxos. His Film and TV work includes the lush orchestral score for the BBC landmark series Son of God, together with music for 9/11, the Cenotaph and the Queen Mother's funeral. Artists who have performed and broadcast Whitbourn's music include Daniel Hope, Arianna Zukerman, BBC Philharmonic and the choirs of King's College Cambridge, Westminster Abbey and many other cathedral choirs. He has a close association with Westminster Choir College, NJ, where he has been artist and composer in residence.

Eric Whitacre - Lux Aurumque.