Virtual Voices
The Detroit Symphony, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, rehearses.
Associated Press/Photo by Carlos Osorio
The Detroit Symphony, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, rehearses.

Praying for orchestras

Music

The recession has been brutal to many orchestras in the United States. Cities such as Indianapolis, Chicago, Richmond, Minneapolis, and Atlanta have sadly witnessed their concert halls locked and the silencing of symphonic music for parts of this year.

Orchestras’ financial problems have a relation to the economy, market forces, aging population of concertgoers, etc.—but a spiritual component is often overlooked. The Christian gospel highly influenced what we call “classical music.” Brahms’ Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are among the many masterpieces that use vocal texts from the Bible and centuries of Christian theology.

If you go to symphony orchestra concerts, you will encounter such composers as Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Dvorak, Mozart, and Brahms—all of whom were devoted Christians. Even as classical music entered the 20th century and a less religious culture, composers such as Stravinsky claimed, “The more one separates oneself from the canons of the Christian Church, the further one distances oneself from the truth.”

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We need to pray for the survival of classical music not only because of its beauty but also because it reminds us of the centuries when our society was so infused by the Christian gospel. Prayer made a difference last year when the Detroit Symphony was having such financial difficulties that much of its season was canceled. Several Christians from the orchestra decided to pray daily for the situation. They launched a website asking for people everywhere to pray for them. The situation improved. They kept praying. Today, the Detroit is back on track, giving hundreds of concerts every year—often including works by Christian composers.

Composer and conductor Patrick Kavanaugh is artistic director of the MasterWorks Festival and executive director of the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship.

Patrick Kavanaugh
Patrick Kavanaugh

Patrick, a composer and conductor, is artistic director of the MasterWorks Festival and executive director of the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship.

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