March 26th: Music Sunday and the Connecticut Premier of “The Prodigal” by David Warner and Mack Wilberg

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Bartolomé Murillo

 

The Prodigal Son is one of the most well-known parables of Jesus.  It has been preached upon and analyzed by ministers, written about in books such as Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, analyzed by psychologists, retold in verse by poets such as Rudyard Kipling and James Weldon Johnson, and depicted in thousands of paintings such as the Murillo seen here.

This Sunday, the choirs of First Church Guilford retold this parable in a new oratorio written by Mack Wilberg.  Accompanied by instrumental ensemble, the stark story unfolds as the choir narrates: “A certain man had two sons . . . . “.  The choir takes on the persona of each character:  they sing in the voice of the father, pleading with his son, “Stay with me, . . . thy day is just begun.”  But the choir, as the younger son, replies “No, father, . . . I am my own, myself alone!” and flees away to live apart.  When the son returns home, the choir sings the part of everyone living on the homestead: “Remember the day, and sing!”  And the choir sings the words of the elder brother: “I’ve labored, not ceasing.”

Like so many other artistic interpretations of the story, new visions of insight come from this musical setting.  In the Murillo painting, you might notice the dirty feet and torn clothes of the younger son, the bright rich colors of the new clothing brought for the son to wear, the fatted calf being led in by the man with the ax to be slaughtered for the feast, or especially the family dog jumping up to welcome home the son.

Woven into the morning worship liturgy, the instrumental ensemble will also play two Swedish dances by Hugo Alfvén depicting the prodigal son leaving home, and a polka depicting the fun the prodigal had while in the far off land.  Two anthems based on traditional hymns will be sung (and danced!) by the Cherub and Junior Choirs with help from the Senior Choir.