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Fire and wrath explored in new body of sacred music created for the 21st century

02 March 2018

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The encounter between God and Moses through the burning bush is the inspirations for one of the new compositions

The encounter between God and Moses through the burning bush is the inspirations for one of the new compositions

A NEW body of sacred music inspired by the work of theologians at the University of St Andrews will receive its world première at the TheoArtistry Festival, next week.

The three-day festival, hosted by the university from Sunday, will explore the challenges and opportunities for sacred music in the 21st century. It will feature six compositions on the theme of divine encounters in the Bible: God speaking to Adam and Eve, to Jacob, to Moses, to Samuel, to Elijah, and through Solomon.

More than 100 young composers from the UK applied for one of six places to work with six theologians at St Andrews to create the music.

One of the winners, Kerensa Briggs, has written a choral piece on the encounter between God and Moses through the burning bush. The composition was inspired by the doctoral research of Rebekah Dyer on fire in the theological and social imagination. Ms Dyer practices fire-spinning in her spare time.

The composers have been mentored by the Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan. “There has been a significant development in this kind of intellectual, academic, and creative activity in the last 20 years or so,” he said. “In the world of theology, there is an understanding that the arts open a unique window on to the divine.”

The director of TheoArtistry, Dr George Corbett, of the School of Divinity at St Andrews, said that encouraging artists to revisit Christianity “in a reverent, irreverent, playful, or provocative way” could inspire original art.

“I like the scriptural image of water and wine: there is a sense in which music can be transformed by its encounter with Christianity and come not to serve theology, but to be theology, or, more exactly, theoartistry, in so far as it may reveal God in a new way through artistry.”

The TheoArtistry Festival: Sacred Music for the 21st Century will include sessions on sacred music within the Church and outside of it, as well as reflections by scholars on “new directions” in theology and music. A CD of the project, featuring music by Sir James MacMillan, his contemporaries, and the six winning composers, will be released on Tuesday.

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