Written by: David Perkins & David Wensley
Derek Wensley, recently retired from the Newham URC group, had one dream to fulfil for which a forced retirement had some appeal. It was to write a Biblical oratorio in modern language which choirs and audiences would love to sing, hear and grasp in accessible everyday English. After five months of careful Bible searching plus loads of prayer for inspiration, the libretto took shape. Waiting nearby, keyboard at the ready, was David Perkins, Derek’s long time composer colleague. Now, nearly two years on, “Re:Creation” is about to be premiered and a new major choral work in the tradition of Handel’s “Messiah” and Haydn’s “Creation” is ready for its first public airing. The dream has come true.
At Guildford’s prime concert venue, Holy Trinity Church on June 22 & 23 the inaugural concerts of “Re:Creation” will take place. Rehearsals are underway with internationally acclaimed Baritone soloist, Leon Berger plus a professional Musical Director, Timothy Ball, and orchestra together with an augmented choir of 60 voices from local churches and choral groups.
Re:Creation is an 85-minute work in 5 movements tracing the grand sweep of Biblical intent from the opening verses of Genesis to the end of Revelation. Its inspiration is the great sacred choral masterpieces from the pens of Handel, Bach and Haydn. Their lasting contribution to the oratorio format has been the delight of singers, instrumentalists and audiences over the centuries. Their soaring phrases and grand themes have stimulated deep responses which have held together faith and music to both touch souls and excite the senses. “Re:Creation” aims to achieve the same response with contemporary English and a sublime new musical score.
Unlike Haydn’s work, “Re:Creation” uses only Biblical text to tell the story as Handel does with Messiah. In some of Bach’s sacred works, the centrality of Jesus and His ministry are irresistible. “Re:Creation” uses the biblical reflections on the person and work of Jesus to probe the Divine scheme as it affects the whole of creation across the breadth of human history.
In the days of the great classical oratorio composers, almost everyone was a creationist. Modern perceptions about the origins of life and its ultimate demise vary widely. Meanwhile, the Bible’s treatment of these themes remains constant, whatever the insights of scientific research and or evolutionary theories may bring. The Bible is not a scientific document, although its teachings have inspired some of the finest brains and richest souls of humanity. Aiming to inspire and inform audiences who have listened to other resonances on the origins and destiny of life, “Re:Creation” offers its biblical text in accessible language and inspiring music.
The librettist of Re:Creation, Derek Wensley, says, ”Music lovers’ passion to sing or hear major sacred works in 17th century English, Latin or German is fine. Sometimes those languages are a barrier to the greatest story ever getting from the ear to the mind and heart to stimulate a response of faith and worship. “Re:Creation” is my attempt to let that happen for all who sing and hear it.”
Composer David Perkins is a freelance composer whose first musical was an adaptation of “The Water Babies” performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1987. Since then David has written 9 musicals, six of which are now published and performed regularly by schools and youth groups across the world.
His musical of Oscar Wilde’s story “The Happy Prince” will be performed at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre later this summer. His collaboration with Derek Wensley stretches over a decade when with their group of actor-musicians, Talking Music, they have presented Biblical anthologies to many URC audiences across the South and East of England raising thousands of pounds for the social action programmes run by the Newham URC group on London’s East end.
In “Re:Creation”, Derek’s long-term practice of drawing together Christian and secular artists and choral groups will again be adopted .The core choir is Ghosts which was founded in 1983 as a musical theatre company drawn from the staff of Guildford’s hospitals. Since 1991, Ghosts has presented an annual choral concert but “Re:Creation” is the first time they have attempted a full-length original work and one which uses a contemporary Biblical script.
Details of how choral groups can present “Re:Creation” (or excerpts from it) can be obtained from Derek Wensley on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01483 836776. As the whole venture is costing £23,000, anyone wanting to offer prayer or financial support should contact Derek. Business sponsorship packages, patron’s concessions, and tickets are available from him as will be CDs of the inaugural concerts on June 22 and 23 at Holy Trinity Church, Guildford.