Around Town: Sufjan Stevens, Kathleen Norris, Requiem for Peace, Hymn Sings

Sufjan Stevens will be at the Orpheum June 9.

Sufjan Stevens will be at the Orpheum June 9.

“I still describe myself as a Christian, and my love of God and my relationship with God is fundamental, but its manifestations in my life and the practices of it are constantly changing. I find incredible freedom in my faith.”

That is Sufjan’s Steven’s response to the question “What does faith mean to you at this point?” during an interview in Pitchfork earlier this year.

The subject of Stevens’ faith remains remarkably interesting, it seems, both to Christians and the general public. Several publications have weighed in on the topic this spring as he is on tour promoting his latest album. (He’ll be in Vancouver next Tuesday, June 9, at the Orpheum.)

Christianity Today writer Joel Heng Hartse (who, as it turns out, is an applied linguist working on his PhD at UBC) tells us How Not to Listen to the New Sufjan Stevens Album. The subhead alerts us to his theme: ‘Can we avoid turning the Brooklyn-based artist and Christian into a poster boy?’ Here’s a sample:

Sufjan Stevens released his studio album Carrie and Lowell this week. It’s a record inspired primarily by the death of his estranged mother several years ago. As such, it’s raw, beautiful and delicate. This is Stevens’s fifth proper album, but the prolific Brooklyn-based artist has been making folk, rock, electronic and neoclassical music for 15 years, music that’s always informed by his Christian faith, even if not always explicitly so. . . .

carrieandlowell1Aside from Carrie and Lowell’s artistic merits, its uncomfortably naked premise offers a chance to reflect on evangelicals’ embrace of Stevens and his music. If it is increasingly clear that Stevens is not, in fact, the poster boy for hipster Christianity we might have once taken him for, can Christians continue to receive his music as a gift instead of as a “statement” about the integration of art and faith?

The Atlantic’s contribution to the discussion is How Sufjan Stevens Subverts the Stigma of Christian Music. Its subtitle fits nicely with Heng Hartse’s theme: ‘The genre has had a bad reputation since the 1960s, but the singer-songwriter succeeds by focusing on aesthetics over evangelism.’

Painting with a broad brush, and clearly siding with Stevens, writer David Roark says:

“The general consensus is that, when it comes to music, Christians tend to make ‘devotional artifice’ and ‘didactic crap,’ at least in the words of the singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens . . .

Stevens, both a Christian and musician, nevertheless stands in stark contrast to those in this category. Representing a different camp of “Christian art,” with completely different motives and characteristics, he’s distinct among other artists of faith, who tend to produce bad, kitschy work – whether heavy-handed films like Facing the Giants and Fireproof, or the musical travesties on the WOW compilation albums.

Instead of dealing directly with religious or biblical matters, Stevens’ music embodies what theologian Francis Schaeffer called the “totality of life,” as opposed some sort of “self-conscious evangelism” – an approach that turns the whole Christian-music stigma on its head. . .  .

It’s not as if they [Stevens, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan . . .] separated their faith from their work – on the contrary, Christian themes and ideas are woven throughout their lyrics. It’s more that their endeavours were simpler: They cared more about writing good songs than converting the world through music.

Reviews for Carrie and Lowell have been very positive, and Sufjan Stevens has created some beautiful music over the years. Sounds like next Tuesday should be a great evening of music.

Kathleen Norris: What the Desert Can Teach Us
Kathleen Norris will be in Vancouver June 12 - 13 as a guest of the Vancouver School of Theology.

Kathleen Norris will be in Vancouver June 12 – 13 as a guest of the Vancouver School of Theology.

My guess is that St. Mary’s Anglican Church will be full next Friday (June 12), when Kathleen Norris comes to town as a guest of Vancouver School of Theology (VST) to grapple with What the Desert Can Teach Us. And for her Writing Workshop the next morning at VST.

Norris has written several books of poetry, but is probably best known for her non-fiction: The Cloister WalkDakota: A Spiritual GeographyAmazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith and The Virgin of Bennington.
“Exploring the spiritual life,” VST organizers say, “her work is at once intimate and historical, rich in poetry and meditations, brimming with exasperation and reverence, deeply grounded in both nature and spirit, sometimes funny, and often provocative.”
Her lecture will consider “Christian spirituality, specifically what the Christian view of the desert, from the Bible to the early church literature, can teach us today.” The workshop will “explore the discipline of incorporating the written word into spiritual practice.”
During an interview with Homiletics several years ago, when asked “How do we come to terms with the barren landscapes of our lives?” she said:
I think living through it is the key. And when the flowers bloom in the desert, it’s God’s doing. . . . Isaiah 35 is such a powerful chapter. When the desert blooms, it really is God’s doing. Living through it and knowing that there is a through path and trying to stay on it or asking God to help you stay on it, is really the key. Because it is God who will bring water out of the rock. We need to make ourselves receptive to these moments when this happens.
Requiem for Peace
requiemforpeace1“It was a doctoral thesis, a labour of love and a universal plea to lay down arms. Now for the first time, Requiem for Peace will be presented by Vancouver’s Jubilate Vocal Ensemble under the direction of its composer, Dr. Larry Nickel.”
So runs the write-up on the Requiem for Peace Facebook page, as it describes the June 6 concert to be held at Shaughnessy Heights United Church. The Facebook article continues:
Since its debut in 2005 at UBC, Requiem for Peace has been performed to glowing reviews all over the world as more and more choirs embrace its powerful message and memorable score. Over the next year it will be performed 11 times in a wide variety of venues, including Sweden, Greece, Azerbaijan, Chicago, Vancouver and Kansas City. It has also been selected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War at the famous Magdeburg Dome in central Germany in July as part of the 2015 European Choral Games.

The 16-part Requiem for Peace communicates a mixture of grief, terror, loss and hope through poetry and prose of multiple cultures and 13 different languages. But its melodic nature and universal theme of forgiveness and reconciliation can be easily understood and enjoyed even by first-time guests at a choral concert.

Jubilate will be joined by a chamber orchestra and the Oculus Chamber Choir, whose director Ben Ewert is assistant conductor and bass singer in Jubilate. Soloists are Robyn Driedger Klassen, Fabiana Katz and John Nickel; pianist is Dr. Betty Suderman.

Nickel has been a well known musical presence in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver for decades. He and Tony Funk founded the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir in 1990. The choir recorded 13 CDs, including more than 100 of Nickel’s compositions. In 2007, Nickel completed his doctorate in composition at UBC.
Two Hymn Sings and a Gospel Music Festival

That there remains an appetite for traditional styles of music is illustrated by three upcoming events:

trustandobeyThis Sunday (June 7) at North Shore Alliance Church, “The Lamplighters are hosting an old-fashioned hymn sing . . . Bring your friends and come worship our Risen Lord in the beauty and simplicity of the ageless hymns.”
A week later (June 13), the Church Music Ministry of Canada will bring another hymn festival to Evangelical Chinese Bible Church in Burnaby. Their goal is “to creatively bring hymns to all Christians in a cross-cultural and inter-generational setting for worshiping our Lord.”
Keeners will have to make a tough choice here, because the Gospel Music Festival takes place the same night at the Trust and Obey Hymn Festival, at Christian Life Assembly in Langley. The “audience participation” evening will feature The Liberty Quartet, Sweet Presence, Class Brass and Company, Keith Bennett, Bob Brooks and Mark Donnelly (yes, that Mark Donnelly).
And of course there are regular concerts at Elim Village, with the Vancouver Concert Band June 10, and The Royal Heirs later in the summer.

June 4, 2015

Apologetics Canada: Thinking? Chapter Six - Becoming a Student – June 4, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Stone's Throw Productions: Here Lies Henry by Daniel MacIvor – June 4, 2015 - June 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

June 5, 2015

Marriage Conference: What Did You Expect? – with Paul David Tripp – June 5, 2015 - June 6, 2015 at All Day
Transformation Art Fair – June 5, 2015 - June 6, 2015 at All Day
Perogy Night in Vancouver – June 5, 2015 at 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Bo Steadman: Utopia - Architectural Visions of the Ideal – June 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Dating and the Fear of Rejection: A Hi5's Event – June 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Dessert and Inspiration with Alongsiders – June 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Men for God Conference – June 5, 2015 - June 6, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 5:00 pm

June 6, 2015

RunforH2O – June 6, 2015 at All Day
James Houston: Spring Prayer Retreat - Exploring the Interior Life of Prayer with the Early Church Fathers – June 6, 2015 at 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Retreat for those who Minister to Migrants and Refugees – June 6, 2015 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
ACTS Walk for Water – June 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Pacific Mennonite Children's Choir – June 6, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Dr. Bones Blues Project – June 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Jubilate Vocal Ensemble: Requiem for Peace – June 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

June 7, 2015

Hymn Sing – June 7, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

June 8, 2015

David Skeel: True Paradox - How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World – June 8, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

June 9, 2015

Sufjan Stevens in Concert – June 9, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm

June 10, 2015

Citywide Bell Ringing for the United Church of Canada's 90th Birthday – June 10, 2015 at 10:30 am - 1:00 pm
Fukushima to Vancouver: Meet the Artists – June 10, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Vancouver Concert Band – June 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
A Place to Call Home, with Dave Woods – June 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Julie Canlis: Culture, Christian Identity and the Authenticity Hoax – June 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Jazz Evensong: The Rossi Gang – June 10, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

June 11, 2015

Soul Sustainability: Urban Renewal Through Art – June 11, 2015 - June 13, 2015 at All Day
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Related Disorders – June 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Role of Art and the Local Church – June 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Stone's Throw Productions: Agnes of God by John Pielmeier – June 11, 2015 - June 13, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

June 12, 2015

Talks With Tom: New President of Regent College, Jeffrey Greenman – June 12, 2015 at 7:00 am - 8:30 am
Clarke Scheibe: What is Good Friendship? – June 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Kathleen Norris: What the Desert Can Teach Us – June 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

June 13, 2015

River of Life Healing Rooms Training – June 13, 2015 at All Day
Vancouver Worship Training – June 13, 2015 at 8:30 am - 12:30 pm
Daniel Plan Simulcast – June 13, 2015 at 9:00 am - 1:30 pm
Neighbourhood Thrift Sale – June 13, 2015 at 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Show & Shine – June 13, 2015 at 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Writing Workshop with Kathleen Norris – June 13, 2015 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
All My Relations Festival – June 13, 2015 at 11:30 am - 6:00 pm
Edmund Hsiah on 'A Creationist’s missionary experience in China' – June 13, 2015 at 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Gospel Music Festival – June 13, 2015 at 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Atesto: Experience – June 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Back to the Bible National Tour: I Will Tell, with John Neufeld, Phil Callaway & Andrew Marcus – June 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Connecting Historical Dots: from Japan Park to Oppenheimer Park in Strathcona Neighbourhood – June 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
O Music – June 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Red Velvet – June 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Trust and Obey Hymn Festival – June 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

June 14, 2015

Praise in the Park Summer Festival – June 14, 2015 at 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Armi Grano – June 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Robyn McCorquodale – June 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
In Concert with Liberty Quartet – June 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Back to the Bible National Tour: I Will Tell, with John Neufeld, Phil Callaway & Andrew Marcus – June 14, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

June 15, 2015

Young Life Ironman of Golf – June 15, 2015 at All Day

June 17, 2015

Summer Connect – June 17, 2015 at 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Jazz Evensong: Triology - Jodi Proznick, Bill Coon & Miles Black – June 17, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

June 18, 2015

#22Days: Ringing the Church Bell – June 18, 2015 - June 21, 2015 at All Day
Double Doors 3 – June 18, 2015 - June 21, 2015 at All Day
Grandview Co:Here Fundraising Garage Sale June 20th, 2015 – June 18, 2015 - June 20, 2015 at All Day
Samuel's Mantle: It's Entirely Possible – June 18, 2015 - June 20, 2015 at All Day

June 19, 2015

Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Universal Gospel Choir – June 19, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Couples Night Out with Steve Geyer – June 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
James Krohn: Art and Secularism – June 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
School's Out 2015 – June 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 11:55 pm
The Campbell Brothers: A Love Supreme – June 19, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

June 20, 2015

Conference: Global Church and Reconciled Korea – June 20, 2015 at 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
God in the Conversation – June 20, 2015 at 9:30 am - 12:00 pm
Grandview Co:Here Fundraising Garage Sale – June 20, 2015 at 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
10th Annual Teddy Bear Picnic – June 20, 2015 at 10:30 am - 2:00 pm
Launch of Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide – June 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Strawberry Tea – June 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Chapel Unified – June 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

June 21, 2015

24 Hour Golf-a-Thon Challenge – June 21, 2015 - June 22, 2015 at All Day
Ecumenical Church Service (Point Grey Fiesta) – June 21, 2015 at 10:00 am - 11:15 am
Jazz Vespers: Marcus Mosely Chorale – June 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Selwyn College Choir Concert – June 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

June 22, 2015

Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Leora Cashe – June 22, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Building a Better Brain: Daily Habits That Can Keep You Sharper, Longer – June 22, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

June 23, 2015

Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Don Stewart – June 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

June 24, 2015

Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Olaf Deshield – June 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

June 25, 2015

Fukushima to Vancouver 2015 – June 25, 2015 at All Day
Invisible Threads: Life Saving Sugihara Visas and the Journey to Vancouver – June 25, 2015 - July 1, 2015 at All Day
L'Arche Vancouver: The Art Together Project – June 25, 2015 - June 29, 2015 at All Day
LTDMinistries Conference – June 25, 2015 - June 27, 2015 at All Day
Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Gospel Giants – June 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concerts – June 25, 2015 - June 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Everybody Copes: Understanding Addiction – June 25, 2015 at 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Sugihara: Conspiracy of Silence – June 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Stone's Throw Productions: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare – June 25, 2015 - June 27, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

June 26, 2015

Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Candus Churchill & Tom Pickett – June 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Clarke Scheibe: Holding on to Wikipedia - the Loss of Comprehension – June 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Son Lux (with Olga Bell) in Association with Blueprint Live – June 26, 2015 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

June 27, 2015

East Side Celebration – June 27, 2015 at 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Prayer Canada: Gospel Jamboree – June 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Leland Klassen – June 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

June 28, 2015

Carey 2015 Graduation – June 28, 2015 at 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: Good Noise Gospel Choir – June 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Jazz Vespers: James Standerfer – June 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Prayer Rally for Voices Together – June 28, 2015 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

June 29, 2015

Jazz Festival Noon Hour Concert: Caroline Markos – June 29, 2015 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Faith and Justice Roundtable #6: The World We Want - Social Justice for What? – June 29, 2015 at 6:45 pm - 9:00 pm

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