In Your Midst
Great Music For A Great Cathedral
April 99

Narration for Great Music by Tom Stratman
Cathedral. One of the most striking moments of "Great Music for Great Cathedrals" is this simple word, uttered suddenly in the darkened church. The music, lights, and pageantry which accompany it are, in a sense, only a fuller and more colorful exploration of the same theme. The Cathedral - its role in art, in history, and in contemporary life - is the subject of these extraordinary evenings of sound and light.

As all in attendance this year can testify, "Great Music" was an event difficult to describe but wonderful to experience. The interior of the Cathedral continuously transformed; there was no longer a first row or a last row. No matter in what distant corner of nave or transept the viewer sat, that point became the center of the performance. The talents of dozens of musicians, artists, and volunteers (under the direction of Dr. James Savage, music director, and Patty Mathieu, lighting designer) combined to evoke images of far-distant times and places - from the splendor of the Byzantine empire to the simplicity of a medieval monastery - giving spectators an occasional glimpse of the eternal.

This year's presentation, in keeping with the advent of the third Christian millennium, focused on the theme of the "Heavenly City." One highlight was the fiery-colored hovering seraphim with 40-foot wingspan. Perhaps most memorable was the finale - while more than a hundred white-robed musicians gathered around the altar platform, lighting designer Patty Mathieu stretched the possibilities of her medium, inundating the altar with light in a powerful evocation of the light of the risen Christ.

Ultimately the spectacle of "Great Music" is less important than the way these performances direct our attention to the tremendous spiritual and cultural importance of cathedrals. A few short days before the beginning of Lent, "Great Music" gave St. James parish and the larger Seattle community a chance to celebrate the ever-present joy of the heavenly city.

Corinna Laughlin is an Acting Instructor in the English Department at the University of Washington and a frequent volunteer at the Cathedral.

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