The title of the Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality Gala Concert on Sunday, April 7 was inspired by words of American composer Leonard Bernstein who said, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before." First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St., Oak Park, generously provided Shem Center concert space as well as a place in which to hold the reception afterward.
Organ compositions were masterfully played by Michael Surratt, as was a Haydn piano sonata, performed by Jeffrey Wagner. I read two poems by Jelaluddin Rumi, accompanied by flutist Jean Bacom-Detmer.
To fulfill our wish to always provide something special for children, "Rex the King of Instruments" by Daniel Burton, a delightful introduction to the pipe organ with a "rap" narrator was performed on the church's magnificent Casavant organ, demonstrating the wide variety of sounds the pipe organ can produce.
A new composition by Thade Jude Correa, "Dignitatis Humanae" (on human dignity), was beautifully performed as a prelude by Jeffrey Wagner, pianist and Bacom-Detmer and was sung by the audience to close the program.
In the text for this new composition, written especially for Shem Center, Correa used the Latin title of a document from the Second Vatican Council that holds special meaning for Shem Center.
He also used some inspiring words from Pope John XXIII: "Consult not your fears, but your hopes and dreams."
We continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Council that initiated ongoing reform of the Catholic Church and opened the way for dialogue and engagement with all peoples and all religions of the world.
Using this new music to frame our 17th annual Shem Center gala concert was an especially appropriate choice because soon after the concert, the bombings at the Boston Marathon dominated the news media. This incomprehensible violence evokes a re-dedication to Shem Center's commitment to understanding and respect among the world's religions. Our reply to violence in our cities as well as in the world at large is to bring beauty into a world searching for a way out of the hostility that divides us.
I can't pretend to be a lion to conquer the enemy …
But bright like the Moon I will rise from the darkness
For I have seen the source of light.
And being a child whose tutor is love
I will not grow up ignorant.
I will rise like a flame out of love's fire
and become infinite like love.
When I reach my end, play the music
That will lift me up to Spirit.
(from the Rumi poem read during this joyful event on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we rose up from the darkness of violence and remembered our capacity to create and enjoy beauty).
Joseph Kilikevice O.P.
Director, Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality