On Tuesday, March 20, the Reverend Shawn DeBerry Johnson was a noted guest of honor at “The Lamb of God” oratorio held at Denver University’s Newman Center. Performances are opened with a word of prayer, and Reverend Johnson honored the show by offering Tuesday’s invocation. Reverend Johnson serves as the Director of Community Affairs, a senior adviser to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. She was joined by friends Jackie Brian and Pastor Lily R. Richardson from My Father’s House International Christian Discipleship Center in Park Hill. Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Marva hosted the Reverend and her guests, and as Reverend Johnson reports, “it was a true joy!”
An oratorio that has become an Easter staple in the Denver area, “The Lamb of God” was composed by Rob Gardner and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010. With local effort from the Colorado Mormon Chorale and Orchestra, Denver area residents have been able to attend performances every Easter season for the last four years. Depicting the final week of the life of Christ and his resurrection, Gardner’s goal is to “bring to life for you the events depicted from the final days of the Savior’s life, and even more, how ‘in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’”
Audience members and performers alike shared glowing sentiments. Shalee Jenkins of Centennial, Colorado said, “The talent of everyone involved was incredible…It was an excellent way to feel of the spirit of Easter. We’ll be sure to attend again next year!” Annie Sullins portrayed Mary Magdalene this year (and was a soloist in 2016) said of her experience, “It has strengthened my testimony that God knows me and cares about me and has a plan for me…The music is tremendous and it was such a privilege to be in it!” Not only could Reverend Johnson start the evening off with her prayer, but she also saw Gardner’s goal realized; her take on the performance was that it was “a very moving celebration of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Father Michael Richardson, Greg Bashaw, President Chad Larsen
On March 11th, the Parker Colorado Stake of The Church of Jesus of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) hosted the fourth annual Parker Interfaith Easter Night of Music. The Night of Music is an opportunity for members of various faiths in the Parker area to come together and celebrate the Easter season through music.
This year, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church was the honored guest for the evening. Choirs and congregants from both churches performed sacred vocal and instrumental musical numbers. The quality of the performances was nothing short of stunning. There was a beautiful spirit present, with some pieces bringing several members of the audience to tears.
In November 2009, Rob Gardner emailed a proposal to the London Symphony Orchestra. He wanted to compose and conduct an oratorio about the last week of the Savior’s life, and he knew that if he could involve the London Symphony Orchestra, which he considers the best in the world, he could compose the work he envisioned.
The idea for the proposed project came to Gardner while he was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the France Bordeaux Mission from 1996-1998. Gardner entered the mission field with a broad range of musical experience, having performed in an a cappella group during high school and composed music for his school’s orchestra. Despite Gardner’s best efforts to keep his musical abilities a secret, his mother made sure his mission president knew.
Gardner’s mission president, Charles Cuénot, a native of France, understood the difficulty missionaries in the area faced in getting people to listen to their message. In an effort to help the missionaries find more people to teach, President Cuénot started hosting musical presentations in various areas around the mission before Gardner was ever called to serve there.