Sunday, November 18, 2007

Interfaith Council Choir Festival

Mrs. Woody made mention a couple of days ago of the "Interfaith Council Choral Festival" that was held here in Orange County last Sunday. It's time I added my observations to hers.

This is something that they've been doing for about four years that I know of. Since I joined the Anaheim Mormon Chorale a year ago, this was my second Interfaith concert. I must say that it's an intriguing blend of philosophies that are represented at these events. I like to think that I've studied a bit about many different religions, but some of the faiths who participate here I've frankly never heard of before. Zoroastrians, for example. New to me! Likewise the Jains. Jain is an ancient religion having its roots in India from about the 6th century, BC. Zoroastrianism is likewise based in India and parts of Iran. Their prophet Zoroaster is said to have proclaimed something called "Mazdaism" (study of rotary engines?) which proclaims the divinity of Ahura Mazda, creator of the universe.

These fascinating facts aside, there's a lot to be said regarding the faith of these many different religions and their adherents. One comment in particular tickled me (and the rest of the audience as well): The Muslim representative stood up immediately following the choir representing a local Jewish synagogue. He made the singularly appropriate comment that he was "a Muslim that just followed a Jewish choir in the house of the Mormons. Thank goodness for the Mormons!" Contrary to current type and hype, this man had nothing remotely inflammatory to say about any other religion. The theme of the event reflected a need to find happiness through faith, and every speaker used their unique points of view to proclaim that message throughout the evening.

One other speaker got a good chuckle out of the audience. One of the Hindi speakers had apparently not made it, and a pastor of, I think, the First Christian church took his place at the podium. He began by stating that he wasn't at all sure he could do any better than the gentleman he was replacing on the program. He spoke well for about 5 minutes or so, at which point the microphone went out. After a few attempts at restoring power to the mic, he finally chuckled, threw up his hands, stated, "See? There IS a god!" and took his seat to much laughter.

But, oh, the music. Understand something: most churches have nothing but volunteer choirs. Often their staff are also volunteers, particularly in our church. Thus you find a wide variance of talent and ability among the many choirs. Such was the case last Sunday. Oddly enough, however, even though our voices were disparate and our styles just as different, there was a sweetness in the music presented by every single choir. A local AME church sent their soulful gospel singers along and raised the decibel level by several notches. A Chinese choir sang one of the sweetest lullabies I'd ever heard. We took our turn as perhaps the best trained group of the bunch, but our music was by no means any more or less significant than that presented by any other choir that night.

The climax of the evening, of course, was the grand finale. Bro. Craig Jessop, conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, conducted all of the singers from every choir (except, for some reason, the AME choir who left early) in a Mack Wilberg arrangement of "Praise to the Lord!" Joining us for this number were members of the Brass section from Chapman University. It was a stirring rendition. We were apparently so strong as a group, that we knocked the power out toward the end of the piece so that the organ cut out completely during one interlude passage. It was back in time for the final chorus, though, and the audience was suitably impressed with the entire evening.

For me it was a chance to hear some wonderful musical traditions from other churches in the area. I can only hope that they appreciated our own offering as a choir representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sure the Spirit was there throughout the night, assisting not only our choir, but every other choir and speaker that came to demonstrate their faith in God, however they may understand Him.

Can't wait for next year!

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