Project Uplift in Hungary

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One of the exciting avenues of Soli Deo Gloria’s mission to promote sacred music takes shape in the work of Project Uplift. In these international projects, we usually seek to bring great works of sacred music to regions of the world where, for social, political, or economic reasons, they are seldom heard. This summer, however, Project Uplift goes to Hungary, where there is already an abundance of music and arts in this center of Eastern European culture.  We have a unique opportunity to support the work of Crescendo International at their Crescendo Summer Institute of the Arts, August 2-16, 2010, in Sárospatak, just outside of Budapest. This two-week Institute is an opportunity for aspiring young musicians to work with master musicians, but it is more than just a great music workshop and performance opportunity. Crescendo is a faith-based organization designed to encourage young musicians both musically and spiritually.

“The Institute is organized by Crescendo, an international Christian movement working together with many churches. In addition to courses and private lessons, students may participate in chapels and small discussion groups concerning challenges that artists face today as well as issues of a Christian worldview. Crescendo also offers personal mentoring.”
Crescendo Institute students

Two SDG board members are actively participating in this year’s Institute. Conductor David Delta Gier is joining the Crescendo faculty to prepare students and conduct the “Galaconcert” on Thursday, August 15, 2010. The program will feature a new SDG-commissioned work by SDG’s Composer-in-Association, Peter Bannister—Hermosura de Dios, a song cycle for soprano, choir and chamber orchestra based on the poetry of Saint Teresa of Avila—and Daniel Kellogg’s Mozart’s Hymn. This culminating concert will be part of the renowned Zemplen Festival, a two-week cultural event featuring classical and contemporary music by first-class Hungarian and international musicians.

David Gier

Delta David Gier, on the Crescendo Institute
David Gier, conductor of the South Dakota Symphony, is no stranger to Eastern Europe. As a Fulbright Scholar in the late 1980s, David led critically acclaimed performances with many orchestras of Eastern Europe. He was invited to the former Czechoslovakia to conduct Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony in celebration of the 100th anniversary of its premiere. Gier took this opportunity to introduce Eastern European audiences to many American masterworks, such as Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Presidential Symphony of Ankara, and Copland’s Appalachian Spring with the Bucharest Philharmonic. In recent weeks, David completed a tour of Bach for the Romanian ministry Oratorium (another two-week European program that focuses on teaching and mentoring young musicians), and en route to the Crescendo Institute, he checked in:

“By all accounts, the week was a huge success. The performances were well attended, and the spiritual focus of the music was unmistakable. Relationships among the musicians confirmed that the mission of the project was brought to fruition, both encouraging and emboldening the believers in the group and challenging those who are searching spiritually to examine their lives and careers in light of the gospel. It was a privilege to once again be a part of this project.

"Next week I travel to Sárospatak, Hungary, for the annual Crescendo Institute. I look forward to working with these students and bringing not only musical but spiritual challenge during the two weeks I’m there conducting rehearsals of the orchestra. Peter Bannister will join me the last few days of the Institute to participate in the rehearsal process and to speak about his work. I greatly look forward to this collaboration as, while I have known Peter for several years through our work with SDG, this is the first time we have had opportunity to work together musically.”
Peter Bannister

Peter Bannister, on Hermosura de Dios
Hermosura de Dios is not the first time Peter Bannister has drawn on poetry from St. Teresa. His interest in the sixteenth-century Spanish Christian mystics began many years ago. One of his first publicly performed compositions, the suite for organ Aunque es de Noche (“Although it is night,” 1989/91), took its title from the poetry of Saint John of the Cross. In that work Peter also referred to Teresa of Avila in the title of the second movement: No hay paz en la tierra (“There is no peace on earth”), words taken from the poem Ya no durmais (“Sleep no longer”).

“I discovered the poetry of John and Teresa largely through my acquaintance with the meditative songs of the Taizé community, not least on account of my close friendship with Dorothy Jones (1927-2009), a US/Canadian French literature professor who, for twenty years, divided her time between North America and France. Dorothy, to whom Hermosura de Dios is dedicated, died last year after a long illness. A postcard with the text of the Taizé song Nada te turbe to words by Teresa of Avila was one of the items that I recall most vividly from the small room in which she lived when in Paris, in which I spent many memorable hours in conversation about all things imaginable.

"I continue to be challenged by the Carmelite spirituality expressed so unforgettably in this literature, which stands as testimony to the power of art to evoke what cannot be articulated on the level of discursive logic: a burning, often anguished desire for encounter with the living God of infinite mystery, the Beauty (hermosura) exceeding all earthly beauties.

“The texts of the Spanish mystics are alive with a passionate flame to which I hope Christian believers of all traditions can relate, reminding me of a quote from a twentieth-century martyr, the Orthodox nun Mother Maria Skobtsova, related recently by Archbishop Rowan Williams (himself the author of a monograph on Teresa of Avila) at a remarkable conference entitled the ‘Holy Spirit in today's world’: ‘Either Christianity is fire, or there is no such thing.’ ”

For Soli Deo Gloria, the two weeks at Crescendo represent an opportunity to ignite the “fire” not only in Hungary, but among Institute students who represent more than 20 countries. SDG is grateful for the donations that make this ministry possible. As Beat Rink, Crescendo’s General Director, writes, “I am very thankful for all the support of Soli Deo Gloria. Thank you so much!”