Guest / Limited Access /

Click here to listen to this editorial.

Maestro John Nelson left Shanghai shortly after directing Handel's Messiah in 2006. Most of the audience members had loved it, Nelson said, although neither the English words nor a translation had been in their programs. "The force of the text must have come through," Nelson said. During the Hallelujah Chorus, "the audience rose to its feet and stomped and clapped and even screamed.

"The government officials that were there sitting with the [Shanghai opera] music director did not stand up," Nelson said. While driving Nelson to the airport, the music director told him of an even more surprising response to the performance: "My wife was sitting next to me and said, 'I think I saw God when I was listening to this music.'"

Amid post-Olympics shifts in China's attitude toward the West, the government decided that sacred music should disappear. "Quietly and without publicity, the Chinese authorities have let it be known that Western religious music should no longer be performed in concert halls. It's an unexpected decision, and one for which there is no obvious explanation or trigger," Catherine Sampson wrote in The Guardian. Even things that merely seem like Western sacred music — including Carl Orff's decidedly unsacred Carmina Burana — have been stopped.

The ban may not last long, but it highlights the dual ambassadorship of religious art. Is an audience thoroughly engaged in Messiah a challenge to worldly authority? Is it worship? A threat to a secular Christmas? Part of a secular Christmas?

...

Nelson is Directeur Musical Honoraire of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and artistic director of Soli Deo Gloria, which commissions and otherwise tries to cultivate contemporary sacred ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedA Letter to My Worship Leaders (Part 1)
A Letter to My Worship Leaders (Part 1)
Worship leaders have one of the most important roles in the church, here is my letter to mine.
TrendingPope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
Pope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
(UPDATED) Warren turns Vatican conference into 'revivalist meeting,' while Moore explains why marriage crosses theological boundaries.
Editor's PickMedical Missionaries' Ebola Pullback: No More Kent Brantlys?
Medical Missionaries' Ebola Pullback: No More Kent Brantlys?
As ministries report record interest in serving, Samaritan's Purse shifts strategy on what expat doctors do.
Comments
Christianity Today
That Controversial 'Messiah'
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.