An Interview with Dr. Turk
Q.: The period of Lent, Good Friday, and ultimately Easter is such an important time for our worship at St. Mary's. What are the important factors that you consider as you plan for the music at our services and concerts?
Dr. Turk: I try to select music that will help to convey a pictorial impression to our congregation, and I especially look at the Biblical texts included in the music and how those texts are conveyed through the music. The events of Good Friday, during the Passion of our Lord, are so dramatic and intense, that it is essential to select music that speaks not only to the drama of the events that happened to Jesus, but also to seek music that connects us to the spiritual place where we find ourselves as individuals. The music should have a direct impact on all of us in the congregation, thus making the story of the Passion of our Lord even more meaningful.
Q.: Were there any special factors that you considered as you developed the music program for this year?
Dr. Turk: I wanted to make the music more accessible this year for the congregation, and that is why I selected music that was primarily in English. For example, we will perform portions of Handel's Messiah which pertain to Good Friday, and with the order of the music we are trying to follow the chronology that tells the story of the Passion of Christ. Other pieces are meditations or reflections that draw directly from Biblical and literary texts, again drawn from the story of the Passion of Christ.
One of the factors I have to consider is where is the most appropriate place to position our choir and musicians, for example, at St. Mary's the choir loft is up and behind the congregation, or they could be placed at the front of the church, or to the side, in the narthex. Placement of the musicians helps to establish the necessary presence, and we need to achieve the essential balance with the choir, soloists, and the string ensemble. So, finding that balance between instruments and the music, and the music with the instruments is so very important. We need to maximize the visual impression for the congregation while doing so in a way that is both cost-effective and impactful.
I spend a lot of time researching the music for this season. We now have a long tradition at St. Mary's of providing a special concert on Good Friday, and it is important to me that the music be pieces that have not been performed recently. So I spend a lot of time reading, listening to recordings, talking to other musicians, trying to find that right program that would be both balanced and meet the needs of our congregation. This is probably the hardest part of my job.
Q.: You seletcted portions of Handel's Messiah this year. Were these selections based on the story of the Passion of Christ?
Dr. Turk: Actually in the Messiah portions that we will perform, the texts are drawn not from the New Testament, but from the Books of Isaiah and Psalms in the Old Testament, and yet these texts very effectively describe the events that occurred on Good Friday. Hopefully the words will help us all realize more deeply these very important messages.
Q.: As we discussed, there are so many fine pieces of music for this time in the Christian year, it would seem to be very difficult to decide what to include and what to omit. Any further insights?
Dr. Turk: In the past the choir has performed pieces that describe the actual steps that Christ followed on Good Friday, but this year's program is more of a reflection of the Biblical texts and story, and less of a literal retelling. But I do feel that the music and the story are so powerful that they will help us as we experience this spiritual journey. The music will have balance, complementing the texts and the Biblical story, and yet will also highlight the drama that is so essential and effective on Good Friday.