Echoes from Calvary is more like a sixth-century church mosaic than like an image on a high-definition television.The picture that emerges demands a more of the viewer, an attitude less passive and more engaged.

The book is a compilation of 86 meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ by 76 contributors (including high recognition names like Martin Marty and Billy Graham as well as CT staff Stan Guthrie and David Neff). But just because it features so many distinct voices, don't expect the book to suffer from the fragmentation of most multi-author volumes. It retains its focus because of the passion of the Vermeer String Quartet's violist, Richard Young, for restoring a work of classic spiritual music to something like its original context.

In 1786, the Austrian composer accepted a commission from the Cathedral of Cadiz in Spain to provide a series of musical reflections that would be played between the spoken meditations of the preacher at his cathedral's three-hour Good Friday service. Haydn's masterful writing is exquisitely paired to the meanings of Jesus' final utterances—right down to imitating the natural speech accents of each of the sayings (in Latin, of course). But with the exception of the final movement (Earthquake), Haydn's series of nine musical meditations are all slow movements. And listening to them one after another can be wearing on an audience.

After a 1987 performance of the Haydn work by the Vermeer Quartet, the cellist remarked to Young that the audience "just had the experience of their lives and don't even know it!"

That was when the Vermeer was just playing the music. Young soon realized that the music needed the spoken word in order to let the audience reflect and absorb. So Young and the ...

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