One year ago, the Grand Rapids Symphony performed at Cornerstone University to celebrate the recently installed stained glass windows in the university’s new, $14 million Christ Chapel.
This year, the orchestra returns to Cornerstone University's Christ Chapel to welcome the arrival of new musical instruments, a 9-foot Steinway D concert grand piano, and an Allen organ in the chapel that opened in September 2015.
The program titled Let Everything That Has Breath at 7 p.m. Friday, March 31, is inspired by texts from Psalm 96 and 150. Tickets are $30 adults, $20 senior citizens, and $5 for students, Cornerstone faculty and staff for the concert.
The program is part of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Sacred Dimensions series, which nourishes the soul with spiritually uplifting music, presented in the sacred spaces in which they were meant to be heard. The Sacred Dimensions series is sponsored by a partner who wishes to remain anonymous. The presenting sponsor of Let Everything That Has Breath is Dr. Mark and Marty Campbell.
The concert also rekindles old relationships.
Pianist Peter Van Dessel, a retired member of Cornerstone University’s music department faculty, will join the orchestra to perform Gerald Finzi’s Eclogue, led by Associate Conductor John Varineau.
“This is kind of a nostalgic thing for me because accompanying Peter with the Grand Rapids Symphony is actually how I got my start with this orchestra, probably 34 years ago,” Varineau said.
Varineau first came to West Michigan as an assistant professor of music at Cornerstone University, then known as Grand Rapids Baptist College.
In the early 1980s, the college hired the Grand Rapids Symphony to accompany concerto performances by members of the music faculty with Varineau conducting the orchestra.
“Because of those concerts, the members of the Grand Rapids Symphony knew of my work,” Varineau said. “When there was an opening for an assistant conductor, I somehow got the job without an audition.”
Eclogue for piano and strings by the British composer is a piece Van Dessel first discovered only a few years ago.
“I heard it on Blue Lake radio while driving to work one morning, fell in love with it, and told myself I had to perform it,” he recalled. “When John Varineau mentioned a program featuring our new Steinway D, I thought that the piece would fit the occasion well.
Guest organist Dexter Kennedy will play virtuoso works by Marcel Dupré’s Cortège et Litanie on the Allen Heritage H-476 organ installed last year and dedicated in September 2016.
Kennedy, who is Assistant Organist at Christ Church Grosse Pointe near Detroit and instructor of organ and harpsichord at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, also will be soloist for the first movement of Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony for Organ and Orchestra.
The Grand Rapids Symphony will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s beloved “Reformation” Symphony No. 5, which features prominently Martin Luther’s famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God.
“People may not know that Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony wasn't written to celebrate the Reformation of 1517, but rather for the 300th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession of 1530,” Varineau said.
The Cornerstone University Chorale, a select ensemble of 40 singers directed by Kent Walters, performs Felix Mendelssohn’s Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, a German language setting of the Gloria from the Latin Mass as well as an arrangement of Amazing Grace.
“I selected these pieces for this program because these texts have been on the lips of believers around the world for a long time,” said Walters, who is Director of Choral Studies and Professor of Music at Cornerstone University. “The Gloria text has been traced back to an early Greek hymn in the Second Century.
“Amazing Grace is perhaps the most famous Christian hymn worldwide,” he added.