LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Milestone: Thank You!

This week marks a milestone for me: my 50th post on this blog. Since September, I’ve featured many gifted and fascinating people, and I’ve listed them below. If you missed any of these interviews, take a look at them in the archives.

Nigel Goodwin, Genesis Arts Trust
Bryan Coley, Art Within,

Jeanne Murray Walker, poet and professor at University of Delaware

Tom Key, Executive Artistic Director of Theatrical Outfit,
Dale Savidge, Executive Director of CITA, www.cita.org

Bruce Herman, painter,
Carol Bomer, painter, www.carolbomer.com
Beverly Key, visual artist
Teena Stewart, visual artist

Marlene Dickinson, dancer and choreographer

Joseph Pearce, writer, professor, co-editor of Saint Austin Review,
Ken Gire, writer and speaker, www.reflectiveliving.org

Frank Boggs, soloist
Brad Williams, percussionist
Chandler Branch, Executive Director of Soli Deo Gloria,

Calvin Edwards, arts enthusiast
Mart Martin, arts enthusiast

Ruthie Colegrove, Kelly Eastwood, Jeff Foster, Meg Foster, and Kathi Urban: fine arts teachers on arts appreciation for kids,

Thanks, everyone!

And thank you to my readers for your support and encouragement these last seven months. You can now sign up to receive my posts via email in the box in the sidebar unless you prefer to visit the blog itself. In the next few weeks, you’ll see more links added, plus I’ll be featuring more artists and art enthusiasts.

I’d like to hear from you. Just leave a comment here or email me at the address listed in My Profile. Please let me know what you like about the blog, how I can improve it, who I might feature, and anything else that would help me make it better. Thank you!

Monday, March 26, 2007

CITA: Forging Connections in Theater

Today, I’m featuring CITA (Christians in Theatre Arts, www.cita.org) and its executive director Dale Savidge. CITA’s mission is “to impact the world and further the Kingdom of God by encouraging and equipping Christians in the theatre arts.” CITA helps theatre artists through a variety of ways, including its publications, conference, and regional groups.

Dale Savidge has been involved with CITA since its beginnings in the mid-1980s, serving as either President or Executive Director ever since. Dale has two masters degrees in theatre as well as a PhD in Theatre and English from the University of South Carolina. Of CITA, he says, “It has been my passion and very rewarding work.”

LeAnne: One of CITA’s goals is to address the isolation that Christian theater artists feel. Why do they feel isolated?

Not all theatre artists feel isolated, but those who do speak of their situation as between the church and the theatre: the church doesn’t always understand (or accept) their position in the theatre and the theatre community often doesn’t understand their faith in Christ. This is less common than when CITA began some 20 years ago, before the church had co-opted the theatre for its own purposes. But there are still underlying theological/philosophical suspicions of theatre which are commonly found in Christianity and which sometimes manifest themselves in an antitheatrical prejudice.

LM: What are some ways CITA provides support to them?

We are a network, a community of people, so our primary means of support is to forge connections between people who are Christians and who love theatre. We publish newsletters and a magazine, we hold conferences and publish books, we hold auditions and play contests, but the single most valuable service we offer is creating times and places where Christian theatre artists can interact.

LM: What are some ways the church can support or encourage fellow Christians in theater?

#1 – Buy their work. If they write a play, produce it. If they produce a play, buy a ticket. It’s that simple. You can pray for them, welcome them into your church, treat them nice, etc., but theatre is a terribly competitive field and everyone, Christian and non, has to work very hard to earn a living in it. If the Christian community would spend as much money on live theatre as they do on other types of entertainment (sports and movies to name two) it would have an immediate and profound impact on the arts in their local community.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Soli Deo Gloria, Part 2: World Premiere This Sunday

This week I’m speaking with Chandler Branch, Executive Director of Soli Deo Gloria (www.sdgmusic.org), an organization that preserves, promotes, and enhances the classical sacred music repertoire.

LeAnne: Tell me about SDG’s current projects.

We are currently preparing to celebrate the world premiere of the largest work we have ever commissioned. This Sunday, March 25, the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Master Chorale will give the world premiere of this new work, written by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Christopher Rouse. Mr. Rouse has composed a Requiem for large orchestra, double chorus, children’s chorus and baritone soloist. It promises to be a very significant occasion. Meanwhile, we have quite a few other commissioning projects in various stages of development, among them a new oratorio for chorus and orchestra that will highlight the Old Testament story of Daniel and the “Fiery Furnace.” This work is being written by American composer Daniel Kellogg and we are very excited about its introduction into the repertoire next season by a major orchestra on the west coast (I can’t officially announce the details quite yet!).

In the realm of recordings, we are in the midst of a multi-year project to sponsor high definition DVD productions of the three great Bach works I mentioned above, all filmed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. The first disc was released early this year on the Virgin Classics label and features the Mass in B Minor, conducted by John Nelson.

LM: How did you get involved with SDG? What is your background in music?

I’ve been a student of music most my life. I began playing the violin at age five, stuck with it and eventually earned my BA in music performance. During my college years I developed an interest in music theory, conducting and composition. The latter discipline eventually blossomed into a wonderfully fulfilling pursuit for me and continues to be a source of joy in my life. Soon after college, a classmate of mine who had studied Music Business and was at that time the Project Manager of Soli Deo Gloria introduced me to the organization and I welcomed the opportunity to join the staff. Since then, almost seven years ago, my responsibility and involvement with the organization has increased and taken on added meaning to me personally. On the business side of things, from the very beginning, Soli Deo Gloria has been a great environment for me in which to learn the mechanics of music administration, but as my involvement has grown, the work has also become more connected to my faith in Christ as I pray for God’s guidance and blessing on our efforts. Among the things I enjoy most about my job is the opportunity to direct projects that attract a diverse interest while remaining rooted in a commitment to honor God.

Coming soon: Q&As with CITA, an actor, a painter, and an expert on creativity and imagination

Monday, March 19, 2007

Soli Deo Gloria: Music on Its Own Terms

Before I get started on today's interview, I wanted to let you know that I have joined the rest of the blog world and added a feature that will allow you to get my posts via email if you prefer. It’s easy and convenient. Just sign up in the sidebar below.

This week I’m talking to Chandler Branch, Executive Director of Soli Deo Gloria http://www.SDGmusic.org, an organization that preserves, promotes, and enhances the classical sacred music repertoire.

LeAnne: I’m so excited about Soli Deo Gloria. For readers who may not have heard about it, describe SDG’s mission and purpose.

Our purpose is to facilitate the creation and performance of classical sacred music, at the highest level, for the glory of God. We take our name from the practice of J. S. Bach, who inscribed many of his compositions with the Latin phrase, SOLI DEO GLORIA (to God alone be the Glory). How we translate that statement into action is primarily by commissioning the great composers of our time—the Pulitzer prize winners, the composers in residence with major orchestras, artists whose works are performed all over the world—to compose new, large scale works of music based on or inspired by the Bible. It’s really quite an unusual focus in the field of contemporary classical music.

But Soli Deo Gloria isn’t only about new music; we also sponsor performances and recordings of the classic masterworks of sacred music. We’re particularly active in supporting concerts of sacred music in world regions where mounting performances of major choral/orchestral works is especially challenging or where for any reason such works are seldom heard. We’ve assisted concerts in Russia, Ukraine, China, Armenia and Costa Rica. Among the highlights was assisting the first performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem in the history of China. Two performances took place with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, and (believe it or not!) the entire text of the Requiem was translated into Chinese and sung in the vernacular.

LM: How has SDG been received by the classical music world at large?

Classical music enthusiasts generally share a respect for the sacred music repertoire, or at least a handful of individual pieces, that sort of preconditions them to value the concept of Soli Deo Gloria. Still, people are often surprised and fascinated to learn that such an organization exists. The response in general has been very positive. And there is more to that, I think, than just a familiarity with the tradition of sacred music. In the classical music world, communication and excellence are paramount, often providing a point of synthesis for artists and audiences of disparate religious backgrounds and beliefs. In the case of Soli Deo Gloria, audiences and performers alike are less likely to take issue with what might be perceived as a religious agenda if they can see that we share their passion for music that speaks on its own terms, with imagination and technique that can satisfy the critical ear. Far more often than not, though, it is the person of faith in Christ who values our efforts great enough to provide us with the support that keeps us running.

LM: Tell me about the Musical Feast in Paris, which is actually taking place right now: March 17-21.

It’s a bit of a side item for Soli Deo Gloria, but an exciting one nonetheless! Each year, during the Easter season, Soli Deo Gloria’s Artistic Director, John Nelson, conducts L’Ensemble orchestral de Paris and the choir of Notre Dame de Paris in one of Bach’s three greatest choral/orchestral masterworks, the Mass in B Minor, the St. Matthew Passion or the St. John Passion. The performances take place at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and have become quite a popular annual event in the life of the city of Paris. There’s no surprise in that, as the magnificence of the cathedral surroundings combined with the power of these Bach masterpieces make for an unforgettable experience. So, for the past several years Soli Deo Gloria has hosted a five day adventure in Paris that begins with fine dinning, private recitals and lectures, and culminates with the Bach performance at Notre Dame. The tour is open to anyone and I highly recommend it! This year about 20 people have joined us for the event this week, which is centered on a performance of the St. John Passion. Next year we’ll be celebrating the St. Matthew Passion from March 1 through 6.

On Thursday, Chandler will be discussing some current projects as well as his own background and involvement with SDG.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Art in the Garden

My daughter and I went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden yesterday afternoon. Atlanta is waking up to spring right now and new buds are appearing every day so walking in the Garden was a true delight.

On this visit, my favorite flowers were the orchids in the conservatories. In one room, pink and purple orchids cascade down an entire wall. It’s breathtaking. (So much so that I forgot to get the name of them.) Orchid Hall houses dozens of different types of these flowers in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Among the living beauties we found glass ones as well—sculptures by internationally acclaimed artist Hans Godo Fräbel. Many of the sculptures are shaped like the orchids themselves, like playful fairies and nymphs, cavorting clowns, and more. The brightly-colored frogs inside glass cases are often indistinguishable from the real thing—until the real thing moves. You can see a few of the pieces on the garden website at www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org as well as Frabel’s studio site at http://www.frabel.com/.

Outside, we enjoyed the sculptures of French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Where Frabel’s glass looks fragile and delicate, Niki’s huge sculptures encourage touching, sitting and even climbing. Embellished with stones, mosaics, glass, and mirrors, they catch the eye and capture the imagination. Sitting inside one sculpture, my daughter was queen and I an honored guest in her kingdom. Niki’s 20-foot alligator across the pond was her beloved pet. My favorites were the oversized women—the Nanas—dancing with joy in the pond. Surrounded by beauty and art in such a gorgeous place with my daughter, I felt like dancing with joy too.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Wedding and the Arts

Two years ago on March 12th, my husband Mart and I got married. Our wedding was filled with the arts. All of the printed pieces were commissions from some of our favorite artists. The location was a theater that’s very special to us: the Balzer Theater at Herren’s in downtown Atlanta. The set for the show that was running at the time, Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, included a courtyard with a fountain and an angel statue that had “Eternity” etched into its base. We used some of our favorite classical music, with Edward Elgar’s Enigma as the processional. Actor friends, including Nigel Goodwin and Tom Key, both of whom have been featured on the blog, read selections from C. S. Lewis, 1 Corinthians 13 from The Message, and a long list of our favorite scriptures. Other friends performed special hymns and songs of worship.

Mart and I did special readings that we'd written to each other, which we had glued inside a handmade book by a paper artist. After our vows and a special prayer of dedication, the pastor presented us to our family and friends. They began clapping and, when the beginning strains of the Hallelujah Chorus could be heard over the noise, they rose to their feet and applauded wildly as we, laughing with joy, left the theater. A short while later, we met them in the lobby of the Rialto Theater next door for our reception.

This week Mart and I celebrate each other and the God who brought us together. We look forward to many more years together as we live lives filled with love for the Lord, each other and the arts.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Arts Appreciation for Kids: A Love for Music, Part 2

Recently I asked music and chorale teachers at Wesleyan School, a private Christian school with a thriving fine arts program, how parents can teach their kids to appreciate music. Here are responses from three more teachers.

Kathi Urban (Lower [or Elementary] School Music)

Parents may provide musical experiences for their children outside the arena of academia. Great family outings might be to a concert at Symphony Hall, or the opera, or going to the ball game and singing the “National Anthem” or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. I also cannot stress enough the opportunities given by churches in the area of music. A strong foundation in church music is priceless.

99% of music is listening. Encourage your child’s listening skills. Read aloud to them – that is music to their ears. Play music and ask them to talk about it – what are their ideas? Listen to their music and help them discern good from less than perfect.

Encourage practicing of instruments be it piano, guitar, recorder or anything else. In the beginning the sounds may not be perfect, but given daily practice (even 5 minutes is grand) it will get better and all will enjoy.

Jeff Foster (High School Director of Bands)

Listen, listen, listen. Kids need to be exposed to all kinds of music. Take kids to concerts of all kinds. Give them recordings of their own – help them build a library of their own music. As they get older and feel drawn to more “pop” music, encourage them in that and support it, while encouraging them to also embrace the other music in their library.

Kelly Eastwood (High School Chorale)

Parents should try to expose their children to a variety of music starting at a very young age. Take them to the opera (you might have to bribe them!), encourage them to join the youth choir at church, and [if the symphony in your area offers outdoor concerts], take a family picnic to them. As a family, you can support the arts at [your school] by attending musicals as well as band concerts and chorale concerts.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Arts Appreciation for Kids: A Love for Music

Because my husband and I love the arts, we want our daughter to love them too. And, as we look at the big picture, we know that teaching the children of the Church to appreciate the arts will help encourage the next generation of artists, art experts, and art enthusiasts. I’ve asked several fine arts teachers at Wesleyan School, a private Christian school, to talk about how parents can teach their kids to appreciate the arts. This week I’m focusing on music.

LeAnne: How can parents help their kids develop a love for music?

Dr. Ruthie Colegrove (Middle School Band Director):

Encouragement is the key! Supportive and encouraging parents are the key to a child’s success in music. I have found that the students who have the most success in band are the ones with great parent support. Parents can get involved with their child’s discipline.

By being involved in the Fine Arts, students are being influenced in the same manner as [they would if they were playing] a team sport. Skill building and effort is the same, and it is important for parents to recognize that.

Meg Foster (Middle School Chorale Director, Assistant Director of Fine Arts):

Parents can help simply by exposing their children to various genres of music, both live and recorded. Share your favorite CDs with them and tell them why you love them. Play for them what you listened to at their age. Take your children to musical events around town and at local universities.

Teach them how to sit down and really listen to live music with a critical ear. An important question to ask your children about the music they listen to is why do they like it? Do they like the beat? The lyrics? The singer’s voice? The guitar section in the middle? Or perhaps it reminds them of a particular time or place where they heard the song. Help lead the way by listening to some of your favorite tunes with your child and telling them why you like it so much. The car can be a great place to do this; talk about a live show you just attended or listen to recordings in the car and discuss. (When I was little, my mom and one of my carpool drivers in elementary school did this kind of thing. They would also ask questions like “do you know which group this is?” It was usually the Beatles or the Monkeys in Mrs. Helms’ carpool!)

More from teachers about music appreciation on Thursday.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Beverly Key, Part 2: Evangelist for Beauty

Today I’m concluding my interview with visual artist Beverly Key (beverlykeymakesart@yahoo.com).

LeAnne: What is your favorite form or method of painting or creating art and why?

Recently I’ve begun to do large abstract oils. In addition, for many years now I have been painting large abstract landscapes on paper with watercolor, where I pour paint through paper filters using dried beans and peas and string for design elements. I enjoy it because it is a wonderful mix of spontaneity and control. You can sort of set up a design with the papers and textures but then you pour and you have no idea how it will turn out when you take off the filters. It is like opening a present to see what happens as a result of the paint filtering through the paper. Originally, when I first began to do them it was a way to loosen up and move toward abstraction.

I also do collage. I collect bits of found paper all the time. When I walk I am always searching the ground for interesting discarded paper, etc. Again, when I started doing collage work it was an effort to move toward abstraction and have a more direct way of getting at the piece I wanted to create. I love working with bits of papers and forming sort of a stream of consciousness piece of art.

LM: Some of your work very boldly proclaims your faith. Have you found resistance to that by nonChristians?

I have never encountered resistance to my subject matter. In fact, it is everything to me that the people who live with these paintings love them and continue to gain energy from them day by day. I am saved by beauty in my own life. When I am discouraged and feel a lack of hope for the future, beauty, whether it is being outdoors, seeing a color or a bird, is such an encouragement to me. That is what I hope my work does for others. I guess you could say I am an evangelist for Beauty. After all, God created all this for us to enjoy. He must have thought it was important. “And God saw that it was good.”

LM: What would you say to encourage young artists who want to blend their art and their faith?

I would say “trust yourself.” You are the only person who will see the world the way you see it. Take confidence in that and draw from your own experiences. Keep working some every day. Most work gets recognized because the artist just kept at it.

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