1996 Conference Report
CFAMC held its second national conference September 27-28, 1996 at Houghton College. Activities included a “State of the Fellowship” address and devotional by CFAMC director Mark Hijleh, a presentation on “The Fine Line Between Art and Worship” by Greg Scheer, and time for sharing of compositions live and on tape. During a Houghton College chapel service premiere’s of Rick Cerchia’s Shabach for wind ensemble and William Allen’s Fugue for a Party for organ were presented. Also, much time was spent in fellowship and prayer both formally and informally.
During an open discussion period, several ideas for new CFAMC initiatives were announced. These are detailed elsewhere in this issue. One major agenda item was the appointment of a CFAMC Executive Committee, including director Mark Hijleh, Greg Scheer, and Rick Harris. This committee will continue to develop and implement all CFAMC activities and policies.
The conference closed with a concert of members’ works including Michael Young’s Kiwi Images for flute and organ, Greg Scheer’s 91 Days for violin and piano, Mark Hijleh’s Song of Songs for soprano and viola, Gaylord Taylor’s Amazing Grace for flute and piano, Walter Saul’s Street Music for flute, clarinet, and euphonium, and William Allen’s Parakeet Suite for piano. Performers included Julia Tunstall and Kaitlin Earley, flutists, Judy Congdon, organ, Krista Alderfer, clarinet, Shannon Nance, violin, Rosalyn Troiano, viola, Kelley Hijleh, soprano, Joshua Bickford, euphonium, and Mark Hijleh and William Allen, pianists. The concert was held at Browncroft Community Church in Rochester, New York. Tapes of the concert can be obtained by sending $5.00 (checks made to “CFAMC-Houghton College”) to CFAMC, Dr. Mark Hijleh, School of Music, Houghton College, Houghton NY 14744.
(See also personal reflections on the conference elsewhere in this issue).
Devotional: A Christian Composer?
What does it mean to be a Christian composer? I’m not sure there is a uniform answer. But looking at the famous passage on music in the New Testament, Ephesians 5: 15-21 reveals much more than I had previously realized. The apostle Paul carefully frames his comments about music with important reminders about spiritual acitivity in general:
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:15-21, NIV).
The striking thing about this passage is the list of attitudes Christians must bring to our music. We are to live carefully, wisely, prepared to use the resources God gives us for His kingdom (v. 15-16). We are to understand His will and not be foolish (v.17). We are to be clear-headed and undistracted by pleasure-seeking (v. 18). We are to be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit! And we are to submit to one another as members of the Body of Christ (v. 21). This last idea is the hardest to swallow in our individualistic culture. I do not claim to know all the implications of this command, nor to have carried it out successfully in my compositional life. I am not even sure exactly what it means! But I think (I, not the Lord!) that it is a two-way street: my composing submitted to the Church, and the members of that Church submitted to my compositional calling. Like most of our faith, it is a radical and exciting notion.
It is not a coincidence that the New Testament’s clearest words about music are embedded in the previous discussion. As to the musical aspect of these verses, I see two main ideas about music (and, by extension, composing): 1) We are to speak to one another (that is, as believers) with our musical activity. Communication about the truth of God’s grace in our lives seems crucial. On the other hand, 2) we are to make music (i.e., for composers, to compose) in our hearts, to the Lord. Our work is an offering directed at God Himself. In this sense, it is between us and Him. I honestly do not know how each composer can or will balance these two musical imperatives. As I said, I do not yet understand what it really means to be in submission to the Body of Christ as a composer, nor what it means for the Body to be in submission to my compositions. But I imagine that if we are, by His grace, attempting to be careful, wise, always prepared to make the most of our opportunities in Christ, not foolish but understanding of His will, not distracted by things of the flesh but filled with the Spirit, in submission to one another, we will write the music He has for us and for His Body. And, I suspect (I, not the Lord!) that music born out of such arduous discipleship and mystical grace will not be “cheap and easy”: it will instead be truly redemptive art. Being true children of God, ardent followers of Christ may not make us great composers, but this scripture makes clear that we must seek those things if we are to have any hope of serving His kingdom as Christian composers. It is a great privilege and a great responsibility. Being a Christian composer means being a Christian first. Father, first make our lives right before you so that our music will be right as well. In Jesus name we ask it. Amen.
IT’S NOT TOO EARLY to renew your CFAMC membership for 1997! Calendar year dues for 1997 are due by January 1, 1997. Sending your $15.00 today will guarantee that you won’t miss out on any exciting CFAMC news or opportunities. Make checks payable to “CFAMC-Houghton College” and send to CFAMC, Dr. Mark Hijleh, School of Music, Houghton College, Houghton NY 14744. Your dues and any additional contributions you wish to make are fully tax deductible.
Personal Reflections on the 1996 CFAMC Conference
by Mark Hijleh
The 1996 CFAMC Conference included a mighty spiritual battle for me personally. Having spent months arranging meetings, performances, meals, and dozens of other details, I was eagerly anticipating a great time of fellowship and sharing among those attending. And this is in fact what happened. Hours of prayer before and during the conference were offered. I believe we are on the right path for this ministry. But Satan often expresses his displeasure at just such times! During the first day of the conference, I began to feel the oppression. Activities, discussions, and schedules didn’t seem (to me) to go the way they should. A CFAMC future business discussion seemed (to me) to lead nowhere. I became irritated, then depressed. The next morning, we were scheduled to travel to beautiful Letchworth State Park for a picnic. I awoke to heavy rains. The food service providers couldn’t accomodate us indoors. The conferees decided to go to the picinc site anyway. I sensed disaster looming. An overpowering feeling of helplessness hung over me. We went anyway. While other conferees went to the Letchworth museum, Lois and Don Wilson and I huddled under a large umbrella and over a pitiful grill filled with water, dry leaves, and charcoal, trying to start a cookfire. The rain came down more and more torrentially. Again and again I asked God, Why? Why are you allowing this day to be so difficult? Can’t you see I need a break here? I repeatedly tried to abandon the project, but the Wilsons prevailed. We started the fire and cooked our picnic. Everyone had a great time. The afternoon sessions went wonderfully, as did the conference concert that night. I was disappointed that more people did not attend. I kept thinking about CFAMC members Jeff VanDell, Scott McCoy, and Greg Scheer, who two weeks before had suffered similar difficulty in attempting to produce a concert in Boston. But, by the end of the conference my prayer had been answered: “Mark, do you trust me? Do you believe that I am in control and ready to use CFAMC for my purposes despite discouraging circumstances? Last year, I made things easier, to give you a solid start. Are you ready to do the hard work now?” And my question to us all is: Are we ready? We continue to pray for His grace…
New CFAMC Initiatives
Over the next two years CFAMC will undertake at least three new initiatives in an effort to more effectively carry out our mission: To glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and help build His kingdom by encouraging the work and witness of Christian composers of symphonic and chamber music, opera, and other serious concert works.
- We will begin investigating the possibility of offering a competitive scholarship for Christian composers to study at colleges or major summer festivals. The details of this have not been settled. Should this effort go forward, substantial fundraising will be required.
- We will undertake a survey of Christian colleges and universities concerning their support for a “National CFAMC Month” each year. If sufficient interest exists, we will attempt to establish a month each year when each participating school would perform at least one work by a CFAMC composer in a student or faculty recital, ensemble concert, or other venue.
- We will investigate the possibility of hosting a CFAMC conference in a more visible location for 1997 or 1998. Among the possibilities currently being considered are Bolling Green, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One major feature of such an event would be the involvement of noted local Christian performers in a highly publicized recital. We are also considering whether to include both concert music and church music in the next conference.
Do you have ideas about CFAMC activities? Let us know what you think!
JONAH BARABAS can be reached at 1322 Dodds Ave., Chattanooga TN 37404, *protected email*. Jonah also maintains a web page at http://www.tclock.com/jbarab.htn.
GREGG BLACK recently completed his M.M. in music education at Temple University. Gregg also sings professionally. He can be reached at 736 Central Ave., Ardsley PA 19038, (215)572-7266, *protected email*.
BRIAN HURST recently completed his M.M in conducting at Hartt School of Music. His address is 62 Willard St., Hartford CT 06105, (860)525-2472, *protected email*.
ANTHONY MOORE is a graduate composition student at Indiana University. He can be reached at 1212 E. Atwater, Bloomington IN 47401, (812)331-1848, *protected email*.
DAVID PARKER is a hornist, composer, conductor, publisher, and arts funding consultant (but NOT a grantwriter!). His contact information is 12009 Cabana Lane, Austin TX 78727-5906, (512)836-2497, *protected email*.
We receive many membership information requests each month. Please continue to pray for our developing membership!