Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New sacred music

Oratorio-like work commissioned by BYU-Idaho premieres in November
Published: Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009

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More than 300 members of BYU-Idaho's choirs and orchestra members will perform a new work of sacred music titled "God's Everlasting Love," during four performances in November. For the oratorical-like work, commissioned by the university, Robert Cundick, retired Salt Lake Tabernacle organist, composed music. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote the text.

Photo courtesy BYU-Idaho
Students in the BYU-Idaho Symphony Orchestra perform the "Tree of Life," oratorio May 3, 2007. BYU-Idaho's newest commissioned piece, "God's Everlasting Love," will be premiered Nov. 6th, in Rexburg, Idaho.

"It's worship through music," Brother Cundick said. "I hope this work will serve as a catalyst for each listener to meditate on God's love for them. I feel strongly that a combination of music and spoken word intensifies the spiritual experience."

Sacred oratorios are usually based on scriptural text, but for the first time, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote the text to the sacred work.

"The text for this work was written by a living apostle," Brother Cundick said. "This has not been done before, so we are plowing new ground."

Brother Cundick asked Elder Bednar, who was president of BYU-Idaho prior to his call to the Twelve, to write the text because of his close association with the university.

"After I had Elder Bednar's text I proceeded to set it to music," Brother Cundick said. "The process was ponder, pray and then compose."

The text is formatted much like a Mormon Church service, beginning with a prelude and invocation before the main body of the work. Two hymn arrangements, including "Jesus Once of Humble Birth," and "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," are included in the work, ending with a benediction and postlude. The work is performed continuously without pause or applause.

The text of the sacred work shares insight into the everlasting love of God and the powerful change that comes as individuals rely on the Savior Jesus Christ during their journey in mortality.

Robert Tueller, director of the Symphony Orchestra at BYU-Idaho will conduct the orchestra and choirs during the musical presentation.

"I feel pretty honored to be part of it," Brother Tueller said. "It is very beautiful, accessible and touching for an LDS audience. I hope they are touched by the words of an apostle. … Music can provide a very spiritual and emotional vehicle that can be very communicative."

The premiere performance will be in Rexburg, Idaho, on Nov. 6 in the Hart Auditorium on the BYU-Idaho campus. The oratorio will be presented in the Twin Falls High School Roper Auditorium in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Nov. 13, and in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Nov. 14. A concluding performance will be in Rexburg in BYU-Idaho's Barrus Concert Hall on Nov. 20.

Although the participants haven't heard all of the parts together yet, they have been working since the beginning of the school semester and are excited to perform, Brother Tueller said. A rehearsal with the choirs and orchestra is scheduled a few days before the first performance.

"[The] students have taken the challenge to work really hard," Brother Tueller said. "I love that first rehearsal with everybody joining together. There is a lot of excitement and, for the first time, they hear it."

Complimentary tickets for concerts in Rexburg and Twin Falls are available at the BYU-Idaho ticket office, by calling 208-496-2230 or 1-800-717-4257, or by visiting the Web site www.byui.edu/tickets. Standby tickets will be available at the door.

For the performance held in the Tabernacle, tickets are available through the Temple Square Events ticket office by calling 801-570-0080 or 1-866-537-8457.

BYU-Idaho began commissioning composers for the Sacred Music Series in 1989, with works being commissioned and performed every two years.

mholman@desnews.com