“The Solemn Blessings” Cantata Returns to Hoover Worship

Posted on August 18, 2010

The Lakeside Choral Festival will present "The Solemn Blessings" at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22 during Hoover Worship. All are welcome to attend.

"The Solemn Blessings" is a cantata based on the eight beatitudes from Christ's Sermon on the Mount. The cantata was written to make connections between the Biblical text and the world today. It seeks to relate Christ's lessons of the beatitudes to society's current struggles and tribulations.

The Michael Shirtz Jazz Quartet will play during the contemporary sections of the cantata. Shirtz creates unique imagery of the journey, offering and celebration of the eight blessings from the book of Matthew with additional text references from 1 Corinthians and the Jewish prayer Shehehanya.

The cantata uses the choir as the voice of the people of God, the soprano soloist as the voice to the messenger and the tenor soloist as the voice of Jesus. The cantata was written for a full orchestra. Flute and violin solos are used throughout the work to signify the impressions of the dove as the symbol for peace and personal reflections.

· Movement I: The fugue between the flute and violin in the opening provide the scene of a morning sunrise and the beginning of a new day. As the day begins, the soprano (messenger of God) calls to the people to rest from their labors and come to the Mount to hear the words of God through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

· Movement II: The chorale in the opening represents the people gathering to seek the word of the Lord. To help provide the imagery of individuals traveling to this great event with different struggles and burdens they are facing within their own lives, Shirtz uses a modal fugue in C minor that grows as the crowd gathers.  In an immediate change, the second half of the movement turns to a jazz ballad featuring the violin. The scene sets up the crowd's first glimpse of Jesus.

· Movement III: Shirtz has Jesus (tenor voice) comfort the people who have come to hear God's words in a short transitional aria.

· Movement IV: Jesus gives the blessings to the people. The first half of the movement delivers the first four blessings. As the crowd comes to understand the first four blessings, Shirtz inserts a transitional chorale by the choir to establish the crowd's trust in the Lord and willingness to learn and live by God.  The next four blessings are presented with greater intensity culminating in the crowd's joyous response as Jesus finishes the blessings.

· Movement V:  After hearing His profound words, the crowd (choir) reprises the gathering chorale from Movement II. With a final mission from Jesus and the messenger of God (soprano), the crowd sets forth from the hillside back out into the world to live and work in the glory of God's name through jubilant celebration.

Shirtz is a jazz musician, composer, conductor and music educator. He holds a bachelor of music degree in jazz studies from Capital University and master of music in conducting from California State University in Los Angeles. He currently serves as the Director of Choral Activities and Coordinator/Lead Faculty of the Department of Music, Arts & Humanities at Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio.