Sabbath morning at the 2014 Adventist Forums Conference began with sunrise over San Diego’s South Bay, color seeping into the marina, barely illuminating the city skyline. With the day beginning outside large picture windows that way, Elvin and Linette Rodriguez led a participatory singing of Joseph Addison's "The Spacious Firmament" with melody inspired by The Creation by Josef Hyden.
The spacious firmament on high With all the blue ethereal sky And spangled heavens, a shining frame Their great Original proclaim. The unwearied sun from day to day Does his Creator’s power display And publishes to every land The work of an almighty hand.
The sun sparkled atop the blues of the marina just outside.
The audience joined in singing “Heaven at Last” From the 1941 Hymnal "when congregations could sing higher than they do now,” Elvin Rodriguez said afterward to chuckles.
Linette Rodriguez runs a piano studio teaching musical theory and performance and serves as vice president of the Riverside Branch of the Music Teachers Association of California. Elvin, her husband, is professor and chair of the music department at La Sierra University. The couple often perform music together, and through the morning alternated playing piano and leading singing.
“We wept and wept until the day dawned.”
With the iconic words of the Great Disappointment, former Spectrum editor and social ethics professor at the Loma Linda University School of Religion Roy Branson explored the intersections of that Great Advent Disappointment of 1844 and his own experiences of aloneness and exile as a child growing up in Egypt.
"The denial of being with people was exile,” Branson said. Growing up in Egypt during the time of the 2nd World War, Branson experienced keen feelings of separation that came with his father’s being away from home, traveling as a missionary. Exile and return.
That aloneness was the exilic sense felt on the occasion of the Great Disappointment, Branson offered. That collective memory might serve as a reminder of an important point: "We should not hurry on from the experience of disappointment to hope, because hope can lead to triumphalism," Branson said, referencing Ellen White’s words.
"The little flock was scattered, torn and peeled,” words of Ellen White again. Turning from those sharp and lingering memories of loss and abandonment, Branson suggested that disappointment points to ethical practices. "If we remember the great disappointment, we will remember the disappointed in our midst." Branson said that the shift becomes one from ontological questions to the moral questions. Ellen White's injunction was that the community must turn to the lonely, the forgotten—the marginalized. And seeing this marginalization has motivated us to say, “Never Again!” Branson said.
Wade In The Water
Following Branson on the platform, Shelton Kilby stood before the audience. Kilby is an accomplished performer, composer and collaborator and a masterful musical storyteller. He is also an ordained minister, and has helped to score films. His pieces have complex narrative arcs of their own. Kilby composed the music for The Record Keeper, a steampunk-style retelling of the Great Controversy.
Psalm 19 is one of Shelton Kilby’s favorite psalms. "The Heavens declare the glory of God." The words of the psalm and the images of the heavens inspired Kilby’s "Nuances of Glory.”
The piece is a stirring movement from a harsh, dissonant chord, if it can be called a chord, through a quietly growing progression best described as the aural sensation of soaring freely through open sky. In the middle of the piece, a wonderful, jazz-infused riff on “To God Be The Glory” gives way to a powerful balladic re-imagining of the hymn. Kilby plays the piece on his own Yamaha keyboard, but his playing gives it the gravitas of a concert grand piano. The piece then returns, evening-and-morning-like, to where it began—a gentle untying, ending surprisingly: dissonance! The audience in the room, many of them with eyes closed, hangs on the mood Kilby just evoked. There is silence. Out the window behind him, boats slide by in the back bay. The sky is vivid blue. Then applause!
Shelton Kilby nearly left the church of his upbringing because he was told on more than one occasion that his music was the wrong kind. One evening in Maryland, Kilby had been thrown out of his college music room. William Loveless pulled up in a brown Chevrolet, Kilby says, and told Kilby to come over to the music department. Loveless pulled out his sax, and with that sax, the piano and fourteen voices, "we made music,” Kilby said. "It was an important moment because I was on my way out," Kilby told the audience.
Kilby missed out on Juliard because his parents wanted him in “The Lord’s School.”
Shelton E. Kilby III speaking with Elmar and Derilee Sakala
"I didn’t want to be in denominational work, but when you have parents that pray you in, you can do nothing but respond to the call,” Kilby said. He made music for Breath of Life, "but it wasn’t scratching the itch." He wanted to make film scores.
During his most troubled time, musically, Kilby recounts playing consonant sounds with no dissonance. He decided he no longer wanted to play. He prayed about it, and heard within his spirit that he had been given the gift for a reason. “Tell the Story,” he heard within his spirit.
"I began to experiment with the fascinating art of Negro Spirituals,” Kliby said, from which the Aaron Copelands and the architects of Americana drew.
Kilby become immersed in slave music, retelling those rich stories though music. Preparing to share his rendering of “Wade in the Water,” Kilby said "you may hear a little of George Gershwin in this...Listen to the slave trudge through the water."
Subtle, minor keys, the trudging starts soft. Wade in the water, children || The Lord gonna trouble the water. Soft, haunting and then suddenly bold, strong major-key chords. The trudge is now a march. The slave is moving swiftly, deliberately, then slower again, quietly. Almost as if to evade some searching eyes. Again a surprise ending—a strong, almost vicious closing chord. This time there was quick and strong applause.
"I began to live again as a composer once I understood the moral sense of my music," Kilby told the audience. "Sacred music is that which is set aside out of a particular experience. We use whatever God has provided to preach a loving God," Kilby said.
Sustained, hearty applause. Kilby killed it.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6300