MAY 19TH, 7:00PM
LOCATION: West-Mont Christian Academy
This year's Spring Concert will feature an incredible piece of music called "Behold the Lamb" by Chris Massa, being performed by a combination of students, staff, parents, alumni and friends of ACSD. This large scale, Easter-themed oratorio is written to help you enter the story of Easter and experience it in a fresh, powerful way. We are inviting all ACSD families to consider attending and inviting your family and friends to come experience this beautiful, meaningful music.
We are also thrilled to be able to support our friends in Guatemala who we sponsor with the World Vision Ignite program through this concert. All proceeds from ticket sales and donations will go toward World Vision Ignite, helping to provide clean water and other needed resources for the people of Concepcion Chiquirichapa as well as empowering our ACSD students to continue learning about and practicing what it means to love God and their neighbors.
History of Behold the Lamb
Behold the Lamb was first performed in 2011, as a collaboration between composer Chris Massa, music teachers Phil and Carrie Warner, and their high school choirs, along with artist Jennifer Cherrington who created the beautiful artwork displayed here live during the original four concerts. Behold the Lamb was written as a follow-up to another large musical work called Love Came Down, written and first performed in 2009. Both pieces have since been performed by a combination of students along with alumni and community members and each performance has been conducted as a benefit concert, raising funds for various missions projects around the world. Proceeds from tonight’s performance will support World Vision Ignite, a program through which ACSD is sponsoring a community in Guatemala and helping our students grow in learning how to love God and their neighbors.
Notes from the composer
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked.
“Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:27-30 (NIV)
Taken in a certain light, the story of Jesus reads kind of like a mystery, a case of mistaken identity. Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry, those who spent time with him and heard him speak had a lot of different theories about who he could be. And in all honesty, Jesus didn’t do much to help the situation. He was constantly referring to himself in different ways and by different names: Son of Man, Son of God, and living water, to name a few. And to make matters even worse, on those occasions when somebody got it “right”, Jesus frequently told them to not say anything, to keep it a secret.
But why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t Jesus just come out and tell people who he was and what he was doing? Theologians have debated this question and others like it for centuries. My personal opinion is that, quite simply, Jesus wanted people to think for themselves. He didn’t spell it out because he wanted people to hear his words, see his actions, and draw their own conclusions. Nearly two millennia later, Jesus’ question—“Who do you say I am?”—is no less relevant and important than it was the day it was first asked.
And it is this question that is at the heart of Easter. During the last week of Jesus’ life, the question of his identity would be put to the test numerous times, to the point of literally being put in on trial. And ultimately, it is this question to which Easter boldly provides an answer.
Come, and listen.
I. Prelude. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It is with these words, echoing the biblical story of creation, that John began his gospel. It is as if, as God was creating the world, he was also creating the means for its redemption. Which, many would argue, is indeed the case. Just as this prelude is the beginning of this oratorio, I hope you can hear within it the beginning of something else, the beginning of a story, the beginning of a journey.
II. Hosanna to the King! When Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday”, it was with great humility. He was sitting on a borrowed donkey, humbly and quietly entering a great city. But, it would seem, the crowd wouldn’t have any of it. The quiet journey became a loud and joyful procession, a royal caravan. “Hosanna!” they cried as they waved palm branches and threw their cloaks on the ground before him. “Hosanna to the King! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
III. Go to Dark Gethsemane. And just a few short days later, how that song would change. After praying alone in the garden at Gethsemane, after crying drops of blood in anguish, he was betrayed by his own and taken to trial on charges of blasphemy—which ultimately becomes a question of his identity. And the crowd that once hailed him as their king has a very different proclamation for him today.
IV. The Crucifixion. These words, taken from Psalm 22, are believed to be a shockingly accurate description of what it feels like to be crucified, to be nailed to a cross and left to die. We’ve all seen representations of the crucifixion before, but as uncomfortable as it may be, I invite you to come nearer to the cross, nearer to the suffering of Jesus. Hear the whip as it slices his flesh, feel the nails as they pierce his hands and feet. Touch the cross and feel the grain of the wood, and ultimately, hear the agony of his final breath. The cross is not something to be witnessed from a distance, to be hung on a wall and forgotten, or worn on a chain and ignored. It is something closer, more intimate, and infinitely more awful than that.
V. Jesus, Our Lord, is Crucified. A great and terrible thing has happened here. So come and stand here, at the foot of the cross. Look up, and feel the drops of blood. Come, let us mourn, for Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.
VI. Agnus Dei (Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet). “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet. This one thing I know, for he loves me so.” While working on a documentary about homelessness in England, composer Gavin Bryars heard a poor tramp singing this song. He recorded it and ultimately used as the basis of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, arguably one of the most transcendently beautiful recordings ever made. Here, I’ve borrowed the tramp’s melody and combined it with the traditional Agnus Dei: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Sometimes, the oldest words are the truest.
VII. In the Tomb. Jesus told his disciples that, after his death, he would rise on the third day, but it’s unlikely that they understood what he was talking about. And honestly, how could they have? He had suffered and died before their very eyes, and as far as they knew, that was the end of his story. And so, they hid, and they waited. For two long days, they waited, not knowing what would happen next.
VIII. Daybreak. Gradually, the clouds start to part, and the stars begin to disappear. The moon keeps getting lower and lower in the sky until it vanishes behind the horizon, and the first rays of light begin to appear. Gradually, in the sunlight, we can see the tomb, and we can see that the stone that has been rolled away. Truly, this is the dawning of a new day. For today, everything has changed.
IX. Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Once again, there’s a new song to be sung. The king who had been welcomed, the criminal who had been scorned and executed, is now the one who has risen from the dead. The plan for salvation that God had created so long ago has now come to fruition. Shout, rejoice, and be glad, for Christ is risen from the dead! Yes, he is risen indeed!
X. Hallelujah! What a Savior! And so, when all has been said and done, we return to the mystery, the question of identity. When we look at Easter, and the events leading up to it, I believe that it’s important to be able see ourselves in the crowd, wherever that crowd may be. And frankly, that’s what we’ve invited you here to do, to retrace some of the footsteps that were walked so long ago. The story doesn’t end here, of course. The journey goes on and on, and we are still a part of it. And yet, Jesus’ question remains, as haunting and inviting as it has ever been: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Born in 1981 and raised in Dover, PA, Chris Massa began percussion studies at the age of six, and began composing when he was sixteen. He graduated summa cum laude from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where he studied composition with Robert Maggio and Larry Nelson.
Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Chris has worked with many of the area’s leading performing ensembles and independent artists. He lives with his wife, Elise, and their son, Caleb.