Imaging the Word

Pamela Stewart is a lyricist and librettist with over 200 published works. In 2000, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure commissioned her to write a song cycle for chorus and symphony. Twice performed at Carnegie Hall, Sing for the Cure made its European premiere at Royal Festival Hall in London in 2010 and was recorded with Dr. Maya Angelou as narrator. In 2013, her song cycle for piano, solo violin, and men’s chorus entitled Tyler’s Suite debuted, benefitting the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Collaborating composers were John Bucchino, Craig Carnelia, John Corigliano, Nolan Gasser, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jake Heggie, Lance Horne, and Stephen Schwartz. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the grant for the Suite’s recording. Her choral pieces have received both Editor’s Choice and Merit Series awards from top choral music distributors, and have been honored by Creator Magazine’s “Select 20.” Ms. Stewart lives in Austin, Texas.

I was raised in a typical Southern Baptist church where my father was the minister. I had no exposure to liturgical worship until I was grown. Although I had heard formal worship sometimes described as “dry,” for me it was a deep well of experience. Worship in my childhood had been centered upon responding to what was heard (the sermon, the music), but liturgical worship engaged my other senses in new ways. It was a repetitive, multi-layered underscoring of the Word; I was hearing the same message, but in a way that felt as though I were hearing it for the first time.

My eyes worshipped through banners and the Christ candle being carried down the center aisle. Having communion more frequently and experiencing a Moravian love feast for the first time brought taste into worship. I worshipped through my sense of touch when ashes were imposed on my forehead on Ash Wednesday and through my sense of smell in a lily-filled sanctuary on All Saints Day. There were new sounds for my ears: the crash of the cymbal at the end of Tenebrae and the ringing of bells on Christmas morning. Speech became a regular part of my worship through congregational responses and litanies. The Word was being “imaged” for me through sound, sight, smell, touch.

Each month in “Imaging the Word” I hope to bring ideas for adding some textural layer to the choral offering, liturgical season, special service (such as choir appreciation or ordination), or the ordinances/sacraments. I look forward to exploring these exciting concepts with you.

Editor’s Note: Explore a more contemplative choral option for advent by clicking the link and listening to Pamela Stewart and John Purifoy’s cantata “LONGING FOR THE LIGHT ScorePlay Video”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s