A Good Friday for Good Music

By March 23, 2016Music & Worship Arts

What does Good Friday mean to you? Historically, this important day in the Christian year has many names and meanings throughout the world. On Good Friday at FUMCFW, we will continue our preparations for the glory of Easter through a meditative service of word and music.

The elite Adoramus Choral Ensemble will present “Mary Speaks,” a service of Lenten lessons and choral music, under the direction of Robert Stovall, Director of Music & Worship Arts. The concert will include choral repertoire from jazz, spiritual, late romantic, and contemporary genres, featuring works by Binek, Dubois, Gawthrop, Lauridsen, Martin, and Nix.

Peggy Graff, Organist and Associate Director of Music & Worship Arts, says Adoramus has been working diligently to learn and rehearse choral music for Good Friday. The music will be interwoven with scripture, readings, and poetry compiled and written by Rev. Linda McDermott. Elaine Johnson, our Worship & Music Assistant and Wedding Coordinator, has choreographed a liturgical dance for one of the pieces, “Pieta,” offering a stirring portrayal of the relationship between the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus as an infant, a boy, and a grown man. This dance will feature FUMCFW Youth including Melanie Linguist and Michael Johnson, with Choral Union Member Trevor Shive. “There are so many wonderful and inspiring elements of our Good Friday service that we are excited to share with the congregation and others who attend!” Peggy exclaims.

Justin_Binek_17Another one of our many gifted and talented musicians, Justin Binek, recently wrote a jazz-inspired “Agnus Dei” that will be performed by Adoramus Choral Ensemble during our Good Friday service. For those of you who don’t already know Justin, he has worn a lot of hats here at FUMCFW. Since September 2014, he has served as a Section Leader/Soloist with Choral Union and as accompanist for Cornerstone Youth Choir. Justin was also our guest conductor for Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Little Organ Mass” on World Communion Sunday in October. And his wife, Claire, is our Children’s Choir Director. Justin says one of the things he has grown to love the most about working with First Church is the caliber of musicians who are part of Choral Union and Adoramus. That’s why it is so special that the beloved musicians of our Adoramus Choral Ensemble will perform his very own choral work on Good Friday.

“Agnus Dei” is one of six movements from the full mass, Missa Lucis (Mass of Light). The text of this piece literally translates to: “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us … Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.” Justin recalls that as he was reflecting on that part of the text, he kept coming back to the idea of being granted peace. “The way I wrote the melody is not an upbeat, savvy, key major melody,” Justin says. “And in general tying with the idea of Good Friday and the story of Christ’s death on the cross to redeem our sins, what Christ did on Good Friday speaks exactly to what that text refers to.”

Justin admits that as he was working on the piece, he certainly was inspired by some of the other works he had already written for the full mass. However, this one ended up standing on its own because he had a specific slow-moving, methodical approach to it. Justin says melodically and harmonically the scale he used is a variation on one particular type of church mode (the scale color you often see in music of Sephardic Judaism and Sunni Islam). He wanted to craft a melody to emphasize that scale and the deeper meaning of the text.

It struck Justin that taking this approach in the piece would actually resonate on a few different levels, and his hope is that it will make people think about the text in multiple ways. “A lot of times we go through the church service, and we say prayers and creeds and all different things, but oftentimes I don’t feel like we necessarily take the time to think about what those words really mean,” he adds. “So I’m hoping more than anything else that the congregation will walk away from this piece thinking about exactly what it is the text is saying.” Although the melody may not be upbeat, its message will jazz things up.

This is sure to be a Good Friday for good music. Join us on March 25 at 7:00 pm in the Sanctuary as we embrace the meaning of this special day together.

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