Dust: a Lenten Journey was premiered on March 13th at Kemper Center Chapel in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Commissioned by Light of Christ Anglican Church in Kenosha, Dust is a set of 8 songs on poems by my dear friend, Rebecca Engstrom, and is scored for mezzo soprano, string quartet, and live electronics. I’ve uploaded video excerpts of the premiere performance and these are embedded below. I hope these excerpts will give you a good feel for the dramatic arc of the work as whole.
Setting Rebecca’s poems was a real joy. Though buttressed by deep theological reflection, the poems never become didactic. They are as a set, a rich reflection on embracing our embodiment and earthiness as an important mode of spiritual awareness.
The music itself juxtaposes sparsely diatonic textures with dense chromatic writing, spoken word and abstract sound structures. Underlying the diversity of material employed lies the old hymn tune, Old Rugged Cross. This tune is particularly evocative to me, since when I was a child, my father would sing it at bed time as sort of a lullaby. It’s also a song that has become so draped in sentimentality and nostalgia that it has been pretty much stripped of its spiritual significance. The hymn stands in as a signifier of how we sort through what we believe. Sometimes it is, out of necessity, deconstructed; other times it is a faithful companion, and still other times, there only tacitly, yet undeniably important.
So many people made invaluable contributions to Dust for it to become a successful project and I have to offer great thanks to Light of Christ Anglican Church for undertaking this project and understanding the vitality that the arts can provide to a faith community.
Thanks also goes to Gary Shipman for his beautiful and inspiring art that provided compelling publicity for the event, and of course thanks to Rebecca for tirelessly promoting the work, preparing the performers, and hosting my family through the premiere weekend. Here is the complete list of everyone who participated:
Performed by: Kathryn Peperkorn, soprano; Rebecca Engstrom and Ann Heidi, violins; Darlene Rivest, viola; Barb Cannon, cello; Philip Thompson, conductor; Gaea Thompson, Ableton Live; Leif Olsen, audio technician.
Voice overs: David Bernabo, Dayspring Brown, Maggie Dahl, Mark Dahl, Ryan Day, Treasure Hoogstad, Megan Lindsey Baker, Jamey Russell, Tracey Russell, Burr Settles, Jessica Whipple
Cello (pre-recorded): Elisa Kohanski