Last year during the spring of 2014, Kalamazoo experienced a performance like nothing before. This debut performance brought together individuals from over 50 churches in the area to present Rob Gardner’s oratorio, Lamb of God. This year, the group will be performing again on Friday, March 20 at 7:30pm and Saturday, March 21 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm at Chenery Auditorium.
If you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering, ora-what-io? Webster’s Dictionary describes it as, “a large piece of music for a group of singers and musicians that is usually about a religious subject.” Imagine a musical stripped down to just the music and the story that utilizes a stage completely occupied with a full orchestra, choir, soloists, narrators and tangible emotion. Simple, yet utterly beautiful.
As the website describes the oratorio is “a sacred musical retelling of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ.” Several years ago Jen Randall, now Director of Kalamazoo’s Lamb of God, went to see a friend singing in the performance in Utah. After just two shows she was absolutely hooked, and convinced that she should bring the production to Kalamazoo.
It was no small undertaking to put together a show made up of a 65-piece orchestra, 140 choir members, 13 soloists and two narrators from all over West Michigan, but it got done. That crew put on a performance that brought many to tears in the wake of its beauty. Abigail Schubkegel, the concertmistress, commented that she, “had never been in an orchestra full of so many people with the same heart for, and dedication to, a performance.”
When I reached out to individuals that were involved in last year’s production to hear what the experience meant to them, the responses were overwhelmingly positive:
“It was very gratifying to be a part of.” – Michael Park, Tenor/Soloist
“Never have I felt so humbled and honored to be a part of something. We have heard countless stories about the meaning of this performance in the lives of everyone who participated in and experienced this amazing work.” – Abigail Schebkegel, Concertmistress
“It takes a lot of focus to not simply sit there and take it all in, the music is so beautiful, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. It has all the grandness possible, it can wash over you and move you.”– Carol Bullock Russell, Cello Soloist
From everyone I talked with about Lamb of God, one word in particular came up, unprompted, each time – powerful. Only a powerful event can manage to bring 50 different churches together to create such a moving performance, and one attendee said it best – “I love the unity between faiths. With The Lamb of God as a medium, we are all able to express our love of God and devotion to Him, regardless of religion.”
Pro Tip: Most people don’t realize that the Cello Soloist represents Jesus Christ in the oratorio!