Southwestern presented the Gala Concert of Sacred Music for the first time in the MacGorman Chapel, March 8, featuring the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) and the Southwestern Master Chorale under the direction of David Thye, with guest artists Steve Green and Larnelle Harris.
Thye said the audience seemed enthused by the performances, responding heartily to each piece and even joining in with clapping and singing on a few selections.
“The performance was just stellar,” Thye said. “I’m so pleased that we had the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra here, to have the best in the metroplex here. The choir rose, and our guest artists were astounding. They commanded the stage.”
Green, who has 13 No. 1 songs, seven Dove awards and four Grammy nominations and who also performed as Southwestern’s guest artist during the 2011 Gala, said he, too, felt the evening a success, and he enjoyed coming back to the seminary.
“It was fabulous,” Green said. “What a delight. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Thye conducting, getting to sing with Dr. Robinson and Larnelle Harris. This is beginning to feel like home and I really, really like it.”
Harris, who has 19 No. 1 songs, 11 Dove Awards and five Grammy Awards, said he enjoyed coming to Southwestern to perform with friend Steve Green, and he appreciates the importance the seminary has placed on keeping its music school alive and vibrant.
“It really is kind of neat—this school’s commitment to music when many of our Christian universities are disbanding their programs because of funds,” Harris said. “The commitment they seem to have here and especially how they are joining that with the arts already in this area, it’s just marvelous. I’m very pleased to be here.”
In addition to Green and Harris’ stirring performances, the Gala audience enjoyed the work of Grammy and Dove award winning pianist, Dick Tunney; artist in residence, guitarist Thomas Burchill; Professor of Voice David Robinson; Professor of Voice Angela Cofer; doctoral student, Yuman Lee; and director of the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra Kurt Sprenger.
Two Stradivarius violins, on loan to the FWSO, also graced the stage in MacGorman Chapel for the performance. Thye said having the two instruments—played by Michael Shih and Swang Lin, concertmaster and associate concertmaster, respectively, for the FWSO—provided a special and rare treat for the audience.
“There are few cities that have one, let alone two,” Thye said of the Stradavarii. “It’s a real honor for the city, and I hope they realize and recognize what we have in Michael Shih and Swang Lim. We’re blessed.”
School of Church Music Dean Stephen Johnson said attendees did recognize the unique and extraordinary opportunity they had to hear the 1685 “Eugenie” and the 1710 “Davis” Stradivarius violins played.
“Audience members at our concert had heard about the Stradivarius instruments the Symphony possesses and thought it was wonderful the world-class musicians played on these world-class instruments,” Johnson said.
FWSO President Amy Adkins said Antonio Stradivari crafted both violins in Cremona, Italy. Six-hundred exist today, and only some of them remain playable, she said.
“We are only one of three orchestras in the country that have more than one Stradivarius in its ranks,” Adkins said, "LA Phil and Chicago are the two that have more than one."
Tunney agreed that the sound of the several hundred-year-old Stradivarii cannot be rivaled.
“It is different,” Tunney said. “It speaks in a hall like no other instrument you’ve ever heard.”
After artists performed a wide range of pieces from Cofer’s Ev’rytime I Feel the Spirit to Harris’ now classic Amen, the evening concluded with Harris, Green and Tunney coming together to perform Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.