Sunday, June 01, 2008

three ways of looking at faith through music

Connection, affirmation, trust, healing, reaching beyond the immediate and being present in it: music which deals with faith usually includes some or all of these ideas, or stems from them.

Mark O’ Connor’s Folk Mass is a rare pair of choral pieces from the composer/violinist/fiddle player. They are sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores of Massachusetts and were commissioned by them after they heard O’Connor play. The first, Let Us Move, is a piece for which O’Connor says that he had the melody very strongly in his head but hadn’t found words until lines from a hymn leap out to him from the page. The folk mass setting is , unusually for O’Connor, a composition where the words suggested the music, and is in part his response to the events of 9/11. If you’re looking for a down home sort of mass setting, this isn’t it, but it is as most of O’Connor’s recent work, Americana themes set in the language of classical music.

James King’s Gardens in the Sky
is down home music, of the bluegrass sort. This is an eighteen track collection of new an perviously released bluegrass gospel, some form King’s days with the band Longview and some from his time with Ralph Stanley. It is, with the exception of David Olney’s Jerusalem Tomorrow, straightforward music of hope, retribution, and we’ll meet in heaven some day variety, done by one of the masters of traditional bluegrass.

The traditions of Come to Me Great Mystery
are of the First Peoples: Blackfeet, Kiowa, Inca, Lakota, sung by those who know those traditions well. These are songs calling for and recognizing healing, and trusting in the hope of that, songs which reach past the perhaps unfamiliar languages through melody and voice.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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