My wife and I returned from a trip to AZ this past week. We attended two performances of Northern Arizona University's Shrine of the Ages Choir, Edith Copley, Conductor. It was tremendous.
The choir brilliantly premiered "Your Hand in Mine". The piece was a collaboration between myself and Brian Newhouse (MSP poet and voice of Minnesota Classical Public Radio). The text is derived from the Seven Last Words of Christ, specifically the Latin text, "In Manus Tuas" (Into your hands I commend my spirit).
Brian and I are working on setting all seven movements from the Seven Last Words. The idea is that we weave together the sacred and the secular through responsorial poetry written by Brian. In short, I wanted to find the larger truths of something that is very specifically liturgical. I interpret the bible and scripture as myth. For me, that has always been the way to connect to the poetry. I know this is not true for many. In speaking with Brian, who is Unitarian and attends a Unitarian church in Minneapolis, I found that he and I are very similar in the way that we view religious practice and liturgy. For him, spiritual pursuits are often devoted to finding holiness in all things. This could mean incorporating global religious practices into his spiritual life or looking for similarities between art of all kinds and spirituality. I seriously identify with this. If you have ever read Joseph Campbell, you'd know that his views on Christian worship are all rooted in myth. So much so that his hero's journey is the basis for all stories ever told over the course of forever. Similarly, Brian and I like to consider the bible as a gateway to larger truths of the human condition, rather than a historical account.
Why the Seven Last Words?
I found that something so specifically liturgical can be universally relevant, far beyond Christan worship. Brian and I look for the themes present in these beautiful texts that might apply to all people. Sure enough, there are many, perhaps too many. I am really looking forward to diving into these texts as Brian completes them and we hope to find an ensemble that would take on the project as a whole. For now, let this movement of the larger work, tentatively titled, "Last Words" give you some perspective on our efforts to coopt the Seven Last Words.