All Heaven shouted for Joy
STATIONS OF CREATION ADVENT CONCERTS 2008, 2009, 2010
The dream: Could we offer a fresh way for people to approach Christmas?
Christmas is a time for reflecting on the mystery that surrounds the miracle of birth.
We had a special art exhibition at Easter to explore the mystery that surrounds death and mortality; could we do something similar at Christmas by inviting composers to create new pieces of music around the theme of creation and birth?
First we would have to write a document to guide the composers and then find someone to help us bring the dream to life.
We found Dan Walker who was willing to become director of music for the project. And we wrote the document included below (as it appeared in 2009 when we had 10 stations).
With Dan Walker’s leadership and the help of Joan Pollock in Melbourne we were able to invite fifteen composers to participate.
In 2009 we reduced the number of stations (and composers) to ten and in 2010 Andrew Batt Rawden and Chronology Arts became key participants in the program and the number of stations were reduced to seven.
The names of the composers were pulled from a hat to determine the particular station on which they would write their music. Each composer would have approximately five months to complete the piece. The length of the piece and the instruments and voices were specified.
For further information about the Stations of Creation Project at St Ives Uniting Church please contact Doug. Purnell email@example.com
We were aware that people often have difficulty listening to new music and so we included in the program an aid for listening to new music.
Listening to new music: In life that which is familiar makes us comfortable and secure. In a similar way, that which is not familiar or different can make us uncomfortable and uncertain. That is true with music too. We tend to gravitate to the pieces that have structure and harmony. And we shy away from that which is discordant and messy. The harmony of our lives is often disrupted by the experiences of creation and birth as is expressed in the themes of this concert. To be in the presence of something that is new and different requires both, our attentive listening, and our patience.
When listening to new music,
Sit in the space,
Let the sound, the music come to you.
Let the sound float over you.
Experience the music.
You might experience it as utterly beautiful, and, it may challenge your ear. Give yourself to the music. It will be new and different, enjoy it for what it is.
Only then think, what does the composer want me to hear?
What is the composer saying through this piece of music?
Perhaps it will help to follow the themes of creation and birth as it is outlined in this program.
In this commentary many of the Biblical stories are seen as having been written retrospectively, that is, looking backwards to address the mystery of being.
Station 1. The creation. Genesis Chapter 1 Psalm 104
A poetic story that speaks the mystery of creation. When we consider the mystery of our origin, metaphoric story enables a knowing beyond rational speech. Often in the face of creation we sing What is creation? What is the ‘nothing’ from which creation comes? What in creation evokes the song? What song is evoked by creation
Station 2.The risk of birth and the fear of barreness Job 38-39, Genesis 18:9-15
There is a risk in childbirth, a risk in creation. There is always the risk of barrenness, the closed womb. There is the risk of life itself. Life in its beginning moments is fragile and vulnerable. There is the risk of imperfection, illness and death. The birthing mother is very vulnerable in childbirth. To seek to conceive and give birth is to enter a vulnerable and risky place.
People fear barrenness. In Biblical times to give birth to a son was to provide economically and socially for the family. In the present, infertility raises deep questions about whether a woman is fully a woman, and whether a man is fully a man. These questions are not always addressed openly or publicly.
What is fear when associated with conception and birth?
What is fear for the life of the child? And what is the fear of the mother for her own life? What is the fear of barrenness that inhabits so many birth stories? How do we acknowledge the pain of those, who for any reason, are unable to share in the birthing process?
Station 3. Conception Luke 1:26-45
The Song of conception, the hymn of joy; being at one with the forces of creation. Rejoicing in the ability to give life. How great is the joy, the song that is sung in conception. At the same time we need to recognize that sometimes conception is unwelcome and that it foreshadows major disruption, sometimes socially disproved disruption. What is the anxiety of, and, the joy, in conception and how do we acknowledge these feelings? We can see conception as a miracle that links and gathers us into the mysterious and divine forces of creation. At the same time can we acknowledge the disruption that conception may bring?
Station 4. Muteness Luke 1:5-24, 57-80
Zechariah, the father becomes mute beside his wife’s pregnancy. Often the possibility of new birth takes away our capacity to speak, for the mystery is beyond words. In what ways does pregnancy, imminent birth and birth itself take our words away?
Station 5. The quickening Luke 1:39-45
The Quickening (consciousness of new life within) as the child grew and ‘leaped’ in the womb. What is the mysterious miracle that enables a woman to conceive and grow in-utero a child? What is the experience of the mother who feels her child growing as part of her? What is the joy of feeling one’s child move in the womb? What song is shaped by that mysterious miracle?
Station 6. Gestation. Psalm 22: 9-10; Psalm 71
The patient waiting. The concern for the health of the growing child.
How do we come to terms with the tiredness and tediousness of waiting, the challenges of changing self image and the anticipation of creating a safe and healthy place for this new creature? How do we address the anxiety or fear of birthing an imperfect child?
Station 7. The birth Psalm 22:9-10; 71:6
Jesus is born in the working stable with all its mess and smells. The birth moment, the birth experience of every mother needs to be valued, the story told and heard, the experience acknowledged. What is it to give birth? What is it to be birthed? What is it to hear the first cry of the newborn? What is it to cry the first time? What is it to hold that newborn child? What is it to be held outside the womb for the first time? What is it for a mother to suckle or feed her child at the breast? What is it to be fed or suckled the first time?
Station 8. The mother’s song of joy; the angels sing. Luke 1: 46-56. Luke 2:13-14.
Mary’s undiluted joy at conception and birth. Mary’s song of joy. The mystery and drama inherent in childbirth evokes awe. There is an ecstatic joy in birth. A song to be sung. The whole of creation joins to sing the joy of each new birth. The angels sing in the heavens. What is birth? What is/how do we acknowledge the joy of the new child who breathes and cries, and promises so much? How do we contain the hope that this new, innocent, unshaped life promises for an as yet, unseen future? What is the joy of being one with the mysterious life force that we sometimes name as God the creator? What is breath- the first breath, the continuing breath? What is the gentle fragile body that holds breath and life? What is the innocence of this new life? What is the song we sing when we see new birth?
Station 9. The naming. Luke 1: 26-33 and 59-66
How does a child live into and become the name that it is given. Jesus was given the name Emmanuel which would mean “God is with us and will save the people from their sins”. A big order to put on any newborn! What is it to give a name to such a child that the child lives into and becomes the name? How do we name that which is born? What name, what language, does this encounter with the beauty of birth call out in us?
Station 10. The circle of creation Colossians 1:15-20; John 1
Every birth, every life, is reflected upon and interpreted. It is more than itself, it becomes part of the whole of humanity. Creation somehow moves in a cycle, a circle. We who have been born give birth, and we watch those whom we have birthed give birth too. We die and the creation continues. These texts reflect the fullness of this circle and the desire of humans to put words on it. How do we mark and celebrate the emergent life? How do we acknowledge the first grasp, the first sound, the first look, the first smile? How does birth shape human hope? What part does the divine have in the birth process? How do we acknowledge the divine in birth? How do we celebrate the mystery and the miracle that is birth? How do we name birth when we know about death?
Composers involved were:
2008 Director of Music Dan Walker
Station 1 - The Creation Jessica Wells
Station 2 – A Song of Praise to the Creation Daniel McCallum
Station 3 - Joy Expressed in Creation Judith Pile
Station 4 - The Risk Anthony Dunstan
Station 5 – Fear of Barrenness Alex Garsden
Station 6 - Conception Julian Day
Station 7 - Muteness Dan Walker
Station 8 – the Quickening Claire Jordan
Station 9 - Gestation Scott Sanders
Station 10 – The Birth Alex Pozniak
Station 11 - The Mother’s Song of Joy Benjamin MacDonald
Station 12 – Awe, The Angels Sing Simon Charles
Station 13 – The Naming Christina Abdul-Karim
Station 14 – The Divine/human Connection Kevin March
Station 15 – The Circle of Creation Andrew Batt-Rawden
2009 Director of Music Dan Walker
•The creation Andrew Batt-Rawden
•The risk of birth and the fear of barrenness: Katy Abbott
•Conception: Corin Bone
•Muteness: Annie Hsieh
•The Quickening: Dan Walker
•Gestation: Alex Pozniac
•The birth: Steve Hodgson
•The mother’s song of joy; the angels sing: Ruth McCall
•The naming: Anthony Lyons
•The circle of creation: Bryony Marks
2010 Director of Music: Andrew Batt-Rawden
•The creation Timothy Tate
•The risk of birth and the fear of barrenness: Nicole Murphy
•Conception: Marcus Whale
•In the womb - The Quickening: Liam Flenady
•The birth: Mark Oliviero
•The naming: Jessica Wells
•The circle of creation: Travish Ash