FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary performed its sixth annual Gala Concert of Sacred Music at the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, Feb. 10.
Following the event, Stephen Johnson, dean of the School of Church Music at Southwestern, noted that the peace within the hall differed greatly from the storms and tornadoes that raged across North Texas during the performance. Reflecting a statement that Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson made in his welcoming comments at the event, Johnson added, “In the current economic climate of uncertainty, we were all reminded, and hopefully some heard for the first time, that there is an unwavering certainty in Jesus.”
While the 2009 Gala encouraged worship, peace and confidence in the Lord, it also displayed musical diversity for the concert guests who filled the 1800-seat auditorium. Southwestern Seminary’s 200-voice Master Chorale and the 90-piece Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra presented both ancient and modern compositions.
“God has created each of us to be unique beings for the purpose of worshipping Him,” conductor David Thye, professor of church music and Robert L. Burton Chair of Conducting at Southwestern, said. Commenting on several passages that encourage various tones in worship, he added, “Each of us have our preferred styles of worship; however, we need to honor all biblical styles of worship. It was my hope that there was something for everyone and all would leave feeling that they had been blessed by experiencing God in a variety of ways.”
The opening song, Shout Now!, contained joyful noise and shouts that contrasted with the poignant melody and message of Healer of My Heart, performed by internationally known tenor, Huw Priday. He also contributed a rendition of Here is Love in both English and Welsh. A native of Wales, Priday said the song was popularized among his own countrymen during the 1904 Welsh Revival, in which thousands came to know Christ.
The evening also featured such classic hymns as Amazing Grace, arranged by Don Wyrtzen, professor of church music at the seminary. Robert Smith, chair of the piano department at Southwestern, and seminary student Young Kyoung Kwon played dueling pianos in a rendition of Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat Major. Kwon was invited to play during Gala as the winner of the 2008 James C. McKinney Outstanding Performer Award.
“Amid all of the many musical forces,” Johnson said, “I have to say that the most moving moment in the evening for me was when our guest soprano, Elizabeth Woollett, walked out onto a stage, where everything else was blackened out, and sang a moving spiritual, Were You There?. That piece was done with such compassion and clear presentation that you had to imagine being present at the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.”
Following this, seminary music professors Angela Cofer and J. David Robinson sang alongside Priday and Woollett in a performance of the Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams. In the tradition of Gala, the evening concluded when the audience stood and joined with the choir in singing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
To view photos of the 2009 Gala, visit the photo gallery on Southwestern Seminary’s Web site: http://www.swbts.edu/photos.