FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern celebrated its 10th annual Gala, Feb. 28, with a performance highlighting the broadly talented and rigorously trained School of Church Music (SCM) together with select members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. SCM Dean Stephen Johnson said the evening provided a splendid showcase of the accomplishments of faculty and students at Southwestern, which they have developed as they study music and use it for ministry.

“Gala was very strong and exciting,” Johnson said. “This was the first time where we were our own special guest. Usually we bring in some special guest from the outside, but this was the first time it was just Southwestern's forces plus the symphony. We really feel like this was a night featuring a good representation of what we do.”

Throughout the evening, the audience enjoyed a variety of musical works, ranging from well-known hymns, such as “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”—to which President Paige Patterson spoke during his introduction, giving a short exposé on the theological significance in the stanza “here I raise my Ebenezer/ hither by Thy help I’ve come”—to a soprano solo in Korean, a robust jazz piece, and finally the well-known and well-loved “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.”

Conductors invited the audience to join in singing during several pieces, filling the room with the full, rich sound of corporate worship. One such selection included, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” conducted by David Thye, professor of conducting at Southwestern and music director of the Master Chorale, the principal chorus of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Thye expressed his gratitude for a chance to highlight the work of students, faculty and community members.

“It was just a glorious evening, all to the glory of God. I'm really thankful for everything that happened. We really are trying to grow a rounded musician to be aware of what’s going on in the world today. We want to equip them so they can go out and make a real big difference.” David Thye, professor of conducting

Gala also served as the premiere for the third movement of Johnson’s “Illumination Canticles,” entitled, “God of Everlasting Light.” Johnson said after he received the text for the piece, he spent two-and-a-half weeks writing the orchestration for the Master Chorale, the string orchestra, percussion and piano.

While Southwestern’s music school has widely-acclaimed faculty conductors, composers and musicians and an ever-growing pool of skilled students, Johnson noted that the seminary’s situation is unique and not the status quo. 

“It’s very special and very unique,” Johnson said. “In fact, we have a lot of prospective students here, coming from major universities saying, ‘I have never seen anything like this before.’ We have a lot of resources here that we are getting used to but that really are quite special when you look at them in the fabric of the national landscape. So, we have a lot to offer to students for opportunities to get involved either as composers or performers or just about anything in between. We're really grateful for all these resources and opportunities.”