Virtuous Flowers in Renaissance Symbolism

The Roots of Sylvia Wood's Artwork 

Elise Arsenault | Reporter

There was a time when insects gave warnings, fruit spread virtues, and flowers told stories. The presence of these elements in artwork during the Renaissance became a language that has become foreign to most: the language of Renaissance symbolism. 

Sylvia Woods is a painter who, fascinated by the symbolic richness of this era, seeks to create a “visual dictionary” in order to reawaken the significance tied to flowers. Her series of paintings, entitled Renaissance Symbolism, was up in Redeemer’s art gallery from February 5th–March 1st this year. The inspiration for her collection grew from memories of artwork in Florence, Italy. It wasn’t until she became an Artist in Residence at a church, however, that she recalled those pieces while contemplating “the last time the Arts and the Church were very integrated.”

“When I looked at those paintings with fresh eyes,” she explained, “I noticed all these elements of natural fruit — either in the hand of a Christ-child, or in the foreground. I was curious about it.

“I started to do more research at that point, and decided to put a show together called ‘Fruit and Renaissance Symbolism.’” Therein, she would isolate the symbols and convey one of their meanings — since they were often read contextually within a painting. This series shifts to the significance of floral symbolism. 

“People of the time knew exactly what these flowers meant,” she stressed. “Most of the population was illiterate, so reading scripture wasn’t an option. Whether it was sacred or secular work, though, meanings were revealed to the population through symbolism.”

Thus, the ideas behind her artwork are just as important as the depictions themselves. The paintings’ titles convey the virtue chosen to associate with the symbol.

“For some of the elements,” Sylvia specified, “you could do two, three, four, or five paintings for their meaning in different contexts.” She then gave a paradoxical example. 

“Symbols could represent a warning, as well as a redeemed element. The apple in the hands of a betrothed couple, for example, is a warning against temptation. In the hands of a Christ-child, however, it is a symbol of salvation.

“It has a similar, but contrary meaning — all dependent on the painting it’s in.”

Once Sylvia isolated an element’s meaning through research, she allowed it to inform the painting's composition and colour.

 The most striking, vivid and complex pieces were inarguably the trio at the centre of the gallery. When asked about their significance, Sylvia admitted they were “a departure from specifically Renaissance symbols, although the meanings carry through.” During the Victorian era, when cultural stipulations prevented some forms of emotional communication; one means of expression was through bouquets called “tussie mussies.”

 “When you handed someone this kind of bouquet,” she explained, “the flowers would tell a story or give a series of information. The other person would ‘read’ it, and then respond with their own combination of flowers to share their ideas with you.”

 This tradition informs Sylvia’s stunning, central trilogy. From left to right, the paintings represent her “current stage of life, where [her] oldest child is leaving home.” Each one is a reflection of a segment of her story and the emotions that cling to it.

The gallery audience heard word of another tradition that opening night. The practice of planting a “Mary’s Garden” was shared by Professor Cuthill while introducing Sylvia’s work.

“Going back to the middle ages,” he explained, “Nuns and Monks planted these gardens outside the convent or monastery walls. Each flower would have some significance, pointing to a particular virtue they wished to nurture.

 “As they manicured the garden, they would be reminded that these are virtues that they need to cultivate within their own lives. They recognized something significant — that within the stuff of creation, there are pointers to a bigger plan.”

Sylvia’s art awakened us to this sort of meditation. Contemplating her artistic interpretation of these flowers and their virtues was a beautiful experience. It represented creation as a kind of compass — able to offer wisdom and wonder once we are still enough behold it.

The Art of Mindfulness

Rebekka Gondosch | Reporter 

Every so often a cultural trend comes along that transitions so quickly into the realm of general acceptance that it seems commonplace and somehow eludes an urgent need for deeper questioning of its origins or its sudden intrigue amongst the masses. Such a social embracing seems to be the case with the widely popular emergence (or re-emergence) of the adult colouring book. Having received two colouring books myself over the holidays, seen others acquire their own, witnessed colouring stations develop in local Hamilton cafés, and most recently spotted ones for sale in the magazine section at Shopper’s Drug Mart, it is clear that something about colouring books has become rapidly desirable. Questioning this need allows us to reflect on and respond to what colouring books might provide that has such a mass appeal. A possible answer? Mindfulness.

Dr. Russell Kosits, Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair, kindly provides the Crown readers an explanation of mindfulness and its potential relationship to colouring books. He shares, “Jon Kabat-Zinn offers perhaps the best-known definition of mindfulness: it means ‘paying attention’ but in ‘a particular way.’ There are three dimensions to this particular form of attention. First, mindfulness is paying attention ‘on purpose’ […] it seems quite likely that colouring could have this same dimension — a deliberate focusing of the attention on the colouring process. Second, contrary to our tendency to live life on ‘automatic pilot’ where we are mindlessly preoccupied with the past or the future, mindfulness involves paying attention to ‘the present moment’ […] Colouring could also have this dimension, if we pay attention to what the pencil feels like in the hand, for example, or of the sound of the pencil on paper, or of the way we respond emotionally to the colours, etc. […] Finally, Kabat-Zinn says that mindfulness involves paying attention ‘non-judgmentally.’”

Kosits’ descriptions illuminate qualities of mindfulness that colouring books could certainly offer. Focus, meticulousness, presence, and an honouring of one’s abilities are all traits highly sought after, and found, through colouring. Kosits shares that, “there has been lots of research on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8 week program (developed by Kabat-ZInn) in which participants practice mindfulness for about an hour every day. A few of the reported benefits include reduced psychological and physiological stress, increased happiness, lower levels of depression, better immune function, decreased pain in patients with chronic headaches, improved sleep, and even improved moral reasoning.” Studies relating specifically to colouring books might produce similar results if mindfulness is at work.

Participating in a phenomenon that acts as a tool for awareness and grounding seems to be an inherently positive one. If colouring can help us support a patient, present, and positive sense of self then this is one trend worthy of a long shelf life. 

Since I Left You: An Album Review

Ben Bock

With the vinyl format becoming more and more popular among music fans, many albums are being rediscovered through trips to secondhand stores. Back in 2000, a group of Australian musicians purchased hundreds of them to be used as samples in a noise punk project. When this group disbanded, these records became the inspiration for an ambitious musical endeavour in electronic dance music.

 The Avalanches' only release, Since I Left You, consists primarily of samples taken from these vinyls. After two years of swapping demos back and forth, core members Darren Seltmann and Robbie Chater had amassed a collection of potential candidates for the album. Using about 3,500 samples in total, the album was initially crafted to be a concept album. The idea was that the songs followed the main character travelling from port to port trying to catch up with a girl he's in love with. The records were from various parts of the world, allowing them to create different moods and settings for each song. Although the overarching idea was abandoned later in production, it's clear in songs like “Since I Left You” and “Pablo's Cruise” that the story remained part of the album. 

Throughout the development of Since I Left You, the band expected to release it only in Australia. This allowed them greater creative freedom in that they did not have to concern themselves with international copyright laws. As a result, they didn’t keep track of what samples were being used. However, the album ended up being released in the UK as well to critical acclaim, peaking at #8 on the UK Albums Chart. As it remained there for 25 weeks, it was also released in the US where it peaked at #10 on the Top Electronic Albums.

Due to international copyright law, the worldwide release carried a number of issues with it. As samples were cleared, a number of them had to be removed. In particular, the entire introduction of the album had to be rewritten following a copyright claim from Rogers & Hammerstein regarding a sample from the musical "South Pacific". In the end, this caused releases in other countries to be different than the original version of the album.

Although copyright laws clearly exist for a reason, it seems that in situations like this it can hinder creative expression more than help it. In particular, with the rise of electronic and sample-based music, more and more musicians are experiencing difficulty when experimenting with plunderphonics (music created from samples). Fortunately, most publishers gave The Avalanches’ permission, most notably Madonna, who allowed them to sample a bass line from her song, “Holiday”.

Regardless, the end product remains an extremely fun and well-produced debut electronic/dance album that contains more depth than the genre may imply. I personally enjoy this genre, but even if you find the music to be outside of your taste, I believe this album and its story represents a significant stepping stone in how music is created and released in today’s world.

As a side note, if you find the concept of plunderphonics intriguing and also like Disney movies, pull up YouTube and check out Pogo. Although not as technically impressive as The Avalanches, Pogo cuts together clips in a creative musical way that earned him a commission straight from Pixar to create a song for the movie "Up". In particular, the songs “Alice” and “Bloom” are among my favourites, but I can guarantee you’ll find at least a few made from movies you’ve seen before.

Tame Impala - Currents

Joshua Voth

Currents is the latest album by Australian psychedelic rock musician, Kevin Parker (also known as Tame Impala). Released in July 2015, this album is a rich combination of psychedelic pop, synthpop, R&B, and disco.  Currents is the third album given to us by Tame Impala and in many ways sticks out as being different, transitional and fluid.

 Many of the songs on this album can be described as warm, melancholy and catchy.  The album definitely mirrors Parker’s own life; he describes the parallels between song names and his own thoughts on the ever-changing nature of life, and reflects on the changes that have been made to Tame Impala over time.  Songs like ‘Eventually’ and ‘Let it Happen’ embody his own personal philosophies of life being transitional and not static.

The song ‘Eventually’ is by far my favourite song on this album. Parker describes this song as the one having the most impact on his own life and identifies closely with it on a personal level. The song is about the emotional, internal struggle of ending a relationship. This is best captured in the opening lines: “If only there could be another way to do this / Cause it feels like murder to put your heart through this.” Later, he goes on to say, “But I know that I’ll be happier / And I know you will too.”  We feel the intense emotions during the bridge when the clear ring of strings pulses like a siren in an almost soothing manner as he says “Eventually” over and over.

The album art is also unique to the album as it re-emphasizes the idea of currents with a visual depiction of liquid being disturbed. The artwork was created by Robert Beatty, an artist in Kentucky. Beatty describes in an interview how he came to create the design for the album; he had met with Parker, who requested the artwork to be “based on turbulent flow, the way liquid or air flows around objects.”

Without a doubt, Parker has made Currents a self-reflective album, and we can definitely hear that in the tone of the lyrics and the rhythms behind each individual song and as a whole. We also see a shift in style, and this album has a more dance-like feeling with synthesizers on the guitar portions.

The album received positive ratings from electronic and rock music enthusiasts from around the world.  On Metacritic, Currents currently holds a score of 84/100, and Rolling Stone magazine placed this album at number 13 on its list of the "50 Best Albums of 2015". Within the first week after the release of Currents, the total number of vinyl copies sold was 14,000, and as of December 2015, Tame Impala has sold 120,000 copies in North America.

I encourage you to give this album a listen from beginning to end. I would describe the album’s approach to conveying its message as gentle and enjoyable, and the music as a massage for the brain.

RUC Presents: Cotton Patch Gospel

Elise Arsenault | Reporter

"The Best Darn Chapel People Will Ever Come To!"

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Men don’t live on grits alone.’” Act I, Cotton Patch Gospel.

Earlier this week, I was able to sit down with Professor and Theatre Director Ray Louter to hear about Redeemer’s upcoming musical production.

“In a nutshell,” he explained,it’s the story of Jesus.”

About 30 years ago, a man named Clarence Jordan did an adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew. He called it the Cotton Patch Gospel, a part of a series translating New Testament books into the prose of the American South in the 1980s. When an actor and musician duo got a hold of the Cotton Patch Gospel, they began to turn it into a musical, and it’s been an incredibly successful show ever since.

“The whole idea of the story is to try — in the way that many writers, dramatist and playwrights have done — to find a way to let the gospel speak in the language of ‘the now.’ When Jesus told the parables, he told them in the idiom of the time. He talked about a Shepherd and sheep. He talked about a rich traveler, dangerous roads, and other images that the people understood.” Redeemer’s theatrical team has drawn the stories even further into the present, hoping to “pull it onto our stage in 2016, with some more contemporary feelings, style and approach.”

What will an audience see when they come to Cotton Patch Gospel?  “We call it a straight-on spiritual revival. We also call it the best darn chapel service people will ever come to! With great music, singing, spirits being stirred, storytelling, and congregational involvement to some extent. We hope that people will have a really genuine experience of the incarnation.”

The production’s framework began about a year and a half ago. “I was looking for a gospel-centred show,” he recounted. “So I thought of the big ones: Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, and Cotton Patch Gospel. Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell both have awesome musical scores, great for an orchestra. But both are problematic in the sense that they both end up with the Jesus figure dead — the stories are tragedies for that reason. The Jesus-figure dies, and c’est ça.”

“The Cotton Patch Gospel is the whole of the good news — that death is defeated!”

The process began with hiring Janine Noyes as music director in the summer, then casting the entire music ensemble in the fall. “Then,” Prof. Louter shared, “for a whole host of different reasons, we lost three of the musicians, and the one actor who was going to play Jesus.” Those departures were daunting. When the first actor left, the cast and directors immediately began reconsidering the show. Seeing as there were many more women than men, and a specific vocal range required, the role could not easily be filled by a single cast member.

“That’s when we went with the idea of a communally held Jesus role.” The Director beamed as he explained this creative interpretation of the script. “In our Cotton Patch Gospel, the role of Jesus is played by seven or eight different people. What we do is we try to guide, in a symbolic way, the view of the audience, so that they know who Jesus is now. It changes fluidly all throughout the play.”

He then explained that when you ask several people to take pieces of the role, it becomes “theologically rich. It adds complexity, as everyone brings their own understanding to the role.” Some characters are said to embody the “sweet, parental Jesus,” others the “witty, sharp” Jesus, and still others the “innocent, goofy boy Jesus.”

 “They all bring a little piece of themselves into the equation — it creates space for people to think imaginatively about the story. Including the actors themselves.” Prof. Louter admits to wondering whether the audience or cast will be more impacted by the event. “Our hope is that the audience will be touched and changed. That it will be amusing and entertaining, of course, but that they would be deeply touched by the possibility of life that doesn’t end.

“It has a particular kind of poignancy, especially this week.”

He encourages faculty, staff, students, and friends from all spheres to come see the show. In fact, he deems Cotton Patch Gospel “a great primer for reading the Bible for the first time. If there is ever a show that we do here, that would be the show to bring a friend who’s a searching soul — aren’t we all, though — this is a great way to get into the gospel with fresh eyes.”

So if you have yet to see a major event produced by a department on campus yet, this is the time. The show runs from January 26th - 30th, with tickets available at redeemer.ca/cotton-patch.

“Go with your dorms,” urges Prof. Louter, “go with friends, and invite people that are searching. Take their own sorry souls — and come! There’s no reason not to.”

Helios: An Album Review

Ben Bock

As we approach the exam season, the average student will spend 17 hours a week studying. This month, I decided to share an album that may make this undertaking a bit less daunting. Keith Kenniff is a Berklee College of Music graduate who has been releasing music for the last 11 years under 3 different names. Starting with an ambient release, Unomia, in 2004 under the name Helios, he has garnered a name for himself through his personal projects as well as soundtracks and composing small pieces for companies like Facebook and Apple.

Although all of Keith’s work is fantastic, I will be focusing on the 2006 release Eingya. It’s his sophomore instrumental album in his own vein of downtempo post-rock under the Helios moniker. With some experience from his first release, as well as a debut album under his Goldmund alias, this album saw his sound truly mature. His degree in percussion provides him with the compositional tools to underline a symphony of mostly acoustic instruments. Almost all rhythms throughout Eingya are an opportunity for Keith to experiment with patterns and new percussive elements.

Eingya-by-Helios-.jpg

 

Guitar and piano are especially emphasized in most of the tracks. In a song like Coast Off, vocals can be heard but not understood. Acoustic instruments are spliced together to create a surreal effect. The blend of organic sounds and clever sample placement is what gives Eingya an atmospheric ambient sound while maintaining a regular beat that is easy to feel.

 However, there is also a clear electronic influence that weaves its way through Eingya. In songs like “Paper Tiger” and “The Toy Garden”, you can easily hear some glitch-inspired production. However, electronic instruments are used with discernment. They are most often used to establish a sonic environment via pads but are also used to highlight specific melodies introduced by the acoustic instruments.

 The use of field recordings also plays a part in creating Helios’ beats and soundscapes. In the drone-like “Vargtimme”, it sounds as though you’re listening to an old tape recording that has been over-stretched and slowed down, creating a wall of sound. In “Halving the Compass”, you might feel as though you are quite literally transported to a forest glade. You can hear guitars and pianos exchange melodies over birds singing and a beat constructed with sounds of the environment. In particular, using these sampled sounds as percussion seems to be recurring theme in Eingya, as similar techniques can be heard later on as well.

As great albums often do, Eingya leaves you wanting more, wrapping up with one of my all-time favourite songs: “Sons of Light and Darkness”. We find an incredibly reverb-thick upright piano settling between a few chords underpinned by an incredibly airy pad and Keith’s signature natural beat. Following this track is the closer, “Emancipation”. This simple guitar piece perfectly sums up the simplicity behind the collective work while remaining elegant and powerful as a stand-alone song.

 As this is purely instrumental, I thought some stressed out students would find this useful as we prepare for exams. If this catches your fancy, I recommend checking out his other albums under the Helios name — his new album Yume came out this year). He also releases solo piano music under the name Goldmund — his new album Sometimes came out this year as well — which can also be good for studying. For more information on Keith Kenniff and related projects, check out http://www.unseen-music.com/

Ripped Jeans and Flowers

A Modern Production of Pygmalion

Heather Shore

In October, thirty students from Redeemer University College attended a 21st century version of the 100-year-old play Pygmalion. One of the intriguing aspects was whether or not original themes of the play still applied.

The creation of the play was roughly based on a Greek myth as told by the Roman poet Ovid. It was about a sculptor by the name of Pygmalion who fell in love with a statue of a woman and prayed to the goddess Aphrodite to make her human.

Pygmalion was created in 1912 by George Bernard Shaw. He was interested in portraying the common people of society rather than focus on the one percent elite.

In 1914, London audiences were introduced to the story about the life of a common flower girl named Eliza Doolittle and a bet made by two gentlemen to turn her into a lady of high standings within six months.

Attendees generally agreed the decision to set the play in the present was a smart move by the producers and directors, allowing the audience to have a closer relationship to Shaw’s original work.

“I think the modernization was a very strong aspect of the production,” says Rebeka Borshevsky, a fourth year English student. “I really enjoyed how they incorporated modern tech to emphasize their point.”

The play featured a variety of snippets of television shows and news reports dealing with class and status.

The television clips were inserted throughout the first half of the play to make the audience think about the various themes presented to them and if they still apply in the present.

“I think the clips about the class system in Britain today and the one about propaganda were strategically placed,” says Dr. Jonathan Juilfs, an English Professor at Redeemer. “I especially liked the propaganda one because it mirrored how Professor Higgins used language in an attempt to change Eliza from a flower girl to a promising lady. It also reflects how companies today persuade people to buy their products.”

Modern music was also incorporated into the production. Artists such as Janet Jackson, Kanye West and Sam Smith were heard throughout.

The costume designs reflected the shift in the time period also. Eliza wore ripped jeans and a sweater for the majority of the first act and Professor Higgins was mainly dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

Even some of the characters positions were altered in order to make them more compatible with the 21st century.

 “I loved how they portrayed Professor Higgins’ mother in the present,” says Borshevsky. “Rather than being portrayed as old money, she is an influential fashion designer who has created a good life for herself.”

Despite the updated setting, the characters were still faithful to the original personalities that Shaw created. “Higgins and Pickering are perfect examples of the stereotype of the British male: calm, serious and refusing to show their true emotions,” says Juilfs.

Pygmalion deals with the issues of class and position in society. Can a person of low status raise themselves up to middle or high class society? Can someone recreate a human being completely?

Music and Memories

RUC Choir Performs with HPO

Rene De Klerk

The Redeemer University College Concert Choir was recently part of a noteworthy evening of music and memories, performing with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra at Hamilton Place.

The concert, titled “In Remembrance: Songs of Courage and Honour,” was performed in honour of the 70th year since the end of the Second World War. With over 200 veterans in attendance and a venue almost filled to capacity, it was a night filled with nostalgia and emotion.

Music from various wartime eras captivated the audience. Famous works including “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky and Finzi’s “Farewell to Arms” were performed by the orchestra. The choir was honoured to be part of such a professional musical event and memorable to many as it was their first time performing with a full-size orchestra and in front of such a large audience.

“Seeing the audience members’ reactions to the music really made me feel more emotional and passionate about it, because some of them lived through these horrible events,” says Sasha Abraham, a choir member.

The RUC Choir performed “Song of the Poets,” a composition by Abigail Richardson-Schulte, the composer-in-residence of the HPO. This specific piece was commissioned for Remembrance Day for the centennial of the beginning of the Great War in 2014.

The piece was written using excerpts from poems written by soldiers in WWI. These five poems represent both sides of the war, as the poets originated from Canada, France, Germany and England. Canadian poet John McCrae’s famous “In Flanders Fields” is the first poem in the song, followed by poems of Wilfred Owen, Louis Aragon, Gerrit Engelke and Luc Durtain.

“These are not graphic poems of fighting or propaganda to gain support for the war effort. Each of these poems looks at the outcome of war with the perspective of poets able to see beyond their own circumstances,” Richardson-Schulte noted in the program.

The evening also included popular songs of the Second World War era, with soloist Bud Roach performing classic wartime songs by Vera Lynn. “White Cliffs of Dover” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” were performed. Nostalgia filled the room as the audience joined Roach in singing the last verse of “We’ll Meet Again.”

“Many around us sang along with the soloist and choir. Their voices connected lyrics with memories. We are so thankful for those who have gone before us. We personally remembered family members, older friends and neighbours who faithfully served to free others so many years ago,” Annette Karafiloff, an audience member commented.

Along with the RUC Concert Choir, violinist Lance Oulette, tenor Bud Roach and the Regimental Band of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry performed as guests.

Lance Oulette has performed worldwide and is the associate concertmaster at the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Bud Roach recently performed at various opera performances in Venice and is involved with musical projects in Hamilton.


The Regimental Band of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry is the oldest enlisted band in Canada, having been formed as the Hamilton Artillery Band in 1855. The band’s performances include a ceremonial celebration in Dieppe, France.

The concert was conducted by James Somerville. He is well known throughout Canada and in Hamilton, having been the HPO’s music director for seven seasons (2007-2013). He is frequently involved with conducting orchestras across the country.


Carrie and Lowell: An Album Review

Ben Bock 

Honesty and a guitar. That’s all Sufjan (SOOF-yahn) Stevens needs to start off Carrie & Lowell, his 2015 follow-up to the electronic-oriented “The Age of Adz”. If the first song, “Death with Dignity” doesn’t make it clear, Stevens approaches this new sonic stage having dealt with the overwhelming pain of losing his mother. As long-time fans are aware, Sufjan’s lyrics draw almost exclusively from his memories of his own life, which makes Carrie & Lowell quite a significant release.

It’s extremely easy to hear the emotional tension in Sufjan’s voice, especially as the album begins. The songs are sprinkled with playful but melancholic vocal melodies over an array of instruments. Incorporating a banjo and a cello provides for several interesting textures which are again enhanced with various electronic effects. The elegance with which he utilizes them provides for a truly heart-wrenching experience when it comes to songs like “Fourth of July”.  As we’re whisked through childhood memories, Sufjan speaks of faith, family, love, addiction, hopelessness, depression and of course, death. The lens of a child’s perspective provides us with a type of objective view that allows us to truly feel the emotions suggested by the lyrics.

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Growing up in a Christian environment, Sufjan’s honesty truly makes itself apparent when grief brings him to question his faith. In “Drawn to the Blood,” he appeals to God, “For my prayer has always been love. What did I do to deserve this?” In “John, My Beloved,” we hear him sing of his relationship with God and reconciling his beliefs with the world around him. Sufjan’s beliefs work their way into multiple aspects of Carrie & Lowell, which makes it that much better.

The electronic influence from Sufjan’s last full-length release is also quite apparent. By applying some ethereal effects on his acoustic instruments, he can create different feelings with the same instrument. The dampened piano and looming cello in “Fourth of July” allow the song to sound very soft but deep, which only serves to increase its emotional weight. At the same time, his intricate fingerpicking in other songs creates an almost harp-like effect using a guitar.

The vocal production is also quite interesting. He frequently has separate vocal tracks for the left and right channel, which makes it truly feel as though he could be in the room with you. Combined with his multi-voice harmonies and naturally softer voice, the lyrics are given the attention they deserve.

Sufjan didn’t know his mother as well as he would have liked. Their complex relationship meant that they had missed out on years of each other’s lives only to come together again right before she died. Sufjan talks about the fact that he didn’t properly grieve in “Should Have Known Better”, which brings him to self-destruct in “The Only Thing.”

By the end of the album, Sufjan realizes that family and friends were all there for him to lean on, but he finds it to be lacking as a replacement for the missed time with his mother. Fortunately, his writing and release of this album as a memorial to her allows him to say goodbye in his own way.

The Everglow: An Album Review

Ben Bock | Student of Redeemer 

"Hello, and welcome to The Everglow by Mae." Although I've listened through this CD dozens of times since discovering it in 2010, it continues to impress me. With their combination of accessible, clever alternative rock and creative conceptual directions, Mae knows how to write music.

When you pop The Everglow into your Sony Walkman (obviously), you are immediately greeted with an audiobook introduction of sorts. A kind female voice lets you know when to turn the page of the booklet accompanying the CD. The first true song, "We're So Far Away," acts as a retrospective look at the past 2 years of their personal journeys. We’re taken along as they’re whisked from country to country in support of their first release, Destination: Beautiful. Almost melancholic, Dave Elkins reflects while Rob Sweitzer beautifully accompanies him on piano, knowing exactly where he fits in the heart-wrenching piano ballad. However, as the track ends it becomes clear (insert excitement/giddiness here); this is a true-blue rock album. Track 2, "Someone Else's Arms," makes it’s clear that Mae knows how to build tension and utilize it effectively, sometimes to the listener's surprise. As they utilize some out-of-key chords in the chorus, the music student's ear perks up; stay tuned, there's more where that came from.

As the album progresses, each piece delves into different facets of rock. They are all individual enough that the listener's interest never falters. “Suspension” is probably the most pop-oriented among the group of songs, discussing new love and it's inexplicable effects. “Painless” and “The Ocean” both honestly examine themes of pain and longing in very different musical settings. However, not much can prepare you for "Mistake We Knew We Were Making."

Apart from the creative use of time signature changes throughout the song, the lyrical content is staggering. Discussing abortion is hands down one of the most difficult subjects a wordsmith can tackle. I believe Dave Elkins executes an excellently crafted story regarding the topic while staying realistic. We view a couple who find themselves in such a situation. We see how they deal with the experience and the resulting emotional ramifications involved when another life enters the picture. As a lyricist, he explores this situation with care. It’s clear he knows that sometimes life and love isn't as black and white as we'd like it to be. Wrapping up the album, "The Everglow" and "Anything" discuss love, hope and humanity’s artistic potential in powerful rock settings. Finally, it comes to a close in the gradually building, creatively layered "The Sun And The Moon".

Uncharacteristic of a rock record, the piano/keyboard features prominently. Various bells, pads and other effects are heard underpinning songs in unexpected ways, expanding the horizon of what Mae can do. Jacob Marshall’s drumming shows that keeping a beat can be done in style. He develops unique patterns that fit with each instrument as they have their turn in the spotlight. In turn, Zach Gehring's guitar arrangements are very diverse. Power-chords are used seldomly and as rhythmic devices instead of a cookie-cutter way to present the current harmonic setting. Using interesting chord shapes and catchy melodic lines, it’s easy to hear that a lot of effort and thought went into crafting them. The bass lines throughout the album show that not all bassists are lazy. Mark Padgett demonstrates the power that a creative bass line can have. Acting as an essential harmonic piece in each song, he shows that rhythm instruments can be extremely powerful. On top of it all, Dave Elkins' almost breathy vocal style fits perfectly over quieter songs like “The Ocean” and “The Sun and the Moon.” At the same time, he works just as well cutting through anything Mae’s instrumentation can throw at him.

The storybook type aesthetic for the album fits very well with the overarching themes and storyline in general. It shows us that as we grow into ourselves, we are still children at heart. We should be stepping into new experiences and difficult decisions with somewhat of a fresh, objective view. At the same time we need to be utilizing moral lessons we’ve learned, whether they be through kings, queens and dragons, or life, love and God.

Recommended for fans of: Relient K, Anberlin, Copeland, and The Rocket Summer.

Lets Talk Tunes: The Place of Pop in Our Playlist

Elise Arsenault | Reporter

We were born sick, you heard them say it
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to

Is when I’m alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen, Amen, Amen.

On Friday, January 16th, a dozen students met with Micah van Dijk to discuss the place of lyrics like these on our playlists. Songs considered that evening were Take Me to Church by Hozier (excerpt above), Shake it Off by Taylor Swift, and Every Other Freckle by alt-J. Students jammed to Room 213s gnarly sound-system for two hours, while applying a model from the book Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling to each tune.

 In this book, award-winning author Andy Crouch divides possible Christian postures toward music into four categories: we can condemn a song by not listening to it, critique it by discerning the good and unhealthy elements as we listen, copy it by Christianizing secular musical concepts, or consume it by listening uncritically.

 The evening saw many valid arguments as we selected the most appropriate approach for each song. Some pointed to scripture, noting that songs like Hoziers could be considered blasphemous in replacing Gods sovereignty with that of fleshly desires. This may call for its condemnation. Others resolved to critique the lyrics, claiming it does give certain insights to a secular understanding, or misconception, of the church.

 Listeners unanimously deemed “Shake it Off harmless, choosing to take a posture of consumption. Its a style of song weve hear several times before, with its catchy beat and positive yet unsubstantial lyrics; it is likely to be replicated lyrically and instrumentally in the years to come.

 The final song emphasized instrumental effects and musicality, with a backdrop of inaudible lyrics in alt-Js Every Other Freckle. The dilemma came when the words were discovered to be sexually graphic. Is it acceptable to listen to such a song if said words are difficult to decipher? How about if you are perfectly aware of their content? Here the lines blurred and the discussion lulled. Its contemplation was valuable in provoking thought despite a lack of consensus.

 Briefly mentioned was the worship acoustic-folk band Rend Collective, which was offered as a potential poster-child of the copy stance. Songs like Rends Build Your Kingdom Here were argued to mimic the style of mainstream group Mumford & Sons. While this mirror in genre is no crime, writer Andy Crouch suggests a more effective way for Christian artists to influence musical culture: by creating music of their own.

The songs and morals that will make the most noise in the media are the original kind. Innovation prompts thought, revelation and the second, third and fourth listenings. As a teabag releases less and less flavour when steeped from one mug to the next, the weight of creativity is lessened when it is replicated. Each artist is fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made, and so is the well of music within them. In other words, to opt for mimicry is to deprive creative growth.

While the discussion left us with many thoughts, two challenges stand out. The first is to avoid passivity when listening to music - no matter its source. This is especially relevant since, in this day and age, music is omnipresent. From elevators, to grocery stores, to virtually every mobile device - it surrounds us whether or not we are aware. Be sensitive to the way you feel as you listen to the pieces authenticity.

Secondly, consider the muse from which your favourite artists ideas are drawn. Since the music we listen to creates an atmosphere, it is wise to be aware of what kind our own playlist is cultivating. This is one more way to guard our thoughts and further foster the renewing of our minds that scripture speaks of. Music has a bewildering kind of influence on us, and I believe God intended it to do so. Seek truth in each artists agenda, in every verses value, and every melodys motive. 

Flaming Sticks and Electric Riffs: Battle of the Bands 2015 Keeps Audience on its Toes

Elise Arsenault | Reporter

No musical regiment entered unarmed. Some brought ivory, or chords of steel and several dozen frets. Some carried toms, spurs, and hi-hats, and others battle-cried in perfect harmony. The finest pieces of armour included a leather jacket, a fedora, a bow tie, a lace dress, much plaid and several graphic tees. Though some grouped in squads and others fought solo, all battled with skill and honour. The name of this historic happening: Battle of the Bands 2015.

Photo of the night's audience.

Photo of the night's audience.

On Saturday, January 17th, five student musical acts performed 20-minute sets in Redeemers dining hall before two hundred spectators. The winners would be booked to play at Supercrawl, an annual art crawl drawing over 100,000 to downtown Hamilton each fall. Deemed quite possibly the toughest B.O.T.B. competition to judge yet, by Hamilton Spectator Music Editor Graham Rockingham, Redeemer ought to take much pride in the spirit and originality of each performer.

In past Battle of the Bands competitions, a total of five bands are selected by students via online voting. Seeing as only five groups entered this year, nominees were exempt from Novembers elimination process and immediately granted spots in the event. By no means does this belittle the worth or musicianship of any act, as each band surely earned their time in the neon and applause from the crowd. Joining Graham Rockingham were judges Lisa La Rocca of Sonic Unyon Records, and Matt McKenna of folk-duo Ash & Bloom.

Jonathan Thiessen of Loud N' Clear

Jonathan Thiessen of Loud N' Clear

First to take the stage was Jonathan Thiessen whose stage name is Loud N Clear. Alternating between piano and acoustic guitar, Thiessens repertoire moved from raps to ballads with ease. His set included Home by Eppic, a rendition of A Great Big Worlds Say Something - affirming Gods promise to never give up on you - topped off by an original song of his. The judges reactions were unanimous, applauding him on mastering the rap-to-song transitions and encouraging him to continue writing his own lyrics. Loud N Clear manned the stage with passionate presence, certainly validating his title and his place before the audience.

The Pineapple Influence

The Pineapple Influence

Next up was cover-band The Pineapple Influence. Members Ben Voskamp (on guitar and vocals), Daniel Stepus (on bass guitar), Nico Williemsen (on electric guitar) and Colin Wouda (on drums) shamelessly admitted to acquiring their name through an online generator. The group offered novel twists to popular hits, ensuring the crowds intrigue the whole way through. Highlights included the bands slowed-down, soulful take on T-Swizzles Shake it Off, the sea of cellphone flashlights during Sam Smiths Stay With Me, and Colin Wouda lighting his drumsticks on fire midway through Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars. Yup, both sticks took flame moments after Nico Williemsen cheekily called for the lights to dim, and a minute before a firefighter mounted the stage to extinguish the hazard - all while maintaining the dittys steady rhythm. The judges diagnosed them with funkitis, noting the contagious energy, smiles and enthusiasm to back their musicianship, execution and practice. Does the ordeal sound too good to be true? Dont believe me - just watch.

Chrisy Hurn of Basement Revolver

Chrisy Hurn of Basement Revolver

Basement Revolver was the third group of the evening, headed by Chrisy Hurn on vocals and electric guitar alongside her elementary school pal Nimal Agalawatte on bass guitar and synthesizer. Chrisy Hurns lyrics were pure poetry, using simple and powerful metaphors to convey their message. Assuring they just want to be cozy with you, the duo invited the audience to sway, and sway they did. Looks on the crowds faces deemed it captivated by Basement Revolvers original, soft and eerie sound. Running through one mic was an H2O Chorus & Echo guitar pedal, altering vocal resonance and giving Hurns voice a reverb-y umph that further set her apart. Strategically ending with familiar tune Jolene by Dolly Parton, the audience gladly sang along. Each judge gave them praises, affirming Nimal Agalawattes accompaniment, Chrisy Hurns understanding of art and meaning, and their sound being well-suited to James St. North (the site of Supercrawl wink, wink).

Second Mile

Second Mile

 The following act was comprised of Adam Rudy on bass guitar and lead vocals, Alex Teeuwsen on drums and vocals, and Jeff Scott and Jozef Teeuwsen on vocals and electric guitar. Originally named The Lanterns in January 2012, the group now goes by Second Mile, writing and performing original rock and roll songs with the skill of seasoned musicians. Each member was a master of his instrument, making for tight riffs and the timing of a metronome. Each song was strewn with hoots and hollers from the audience, setting the rhythm of their head banging. Their sound is best described by Matt McKenna, exclaiming: “it makes me want to set something on fire! Entirely out of breath by the end of the set, Second Mile put on an exceptional show.

To Our Divide: People's Choice

To Our Divide: People's Choice

To Our Divide was the last band to perform on Saturday night, formed by Timon Moolman on vocals and electric guitar, Dan Vanden Boogaard on vocals and keys, Tristan Persaud on electric guitar, Dan Jumaquio on drums and Tristan Kaarid on drums and bass guitar (that is, Timon, Dan2 and Tristan2). The whole of their performance was high-energy, with synchronized head banging, closed eyes and lyrics pointing heavenward. Light and sound overlapped so as to create a thick ambience. Ambitious anthems, a total experience and no calorie left unburned were accurate expressions used by judges to discern their effect on beanie-clad fans. Conceived years ago in Dorm 12, this collective now performs with passion in their every fibre, wholly losing themselves in the wake of sound.

Come the end of the five numbers, approximately 125 spectators participated in voting for the Peoples Choice Award, while judges deliberated over their notes. Favourited by the audience was To Our Divide, and selected to play at SuperCrawl was Basement Revolver.

Basement Revolver: Judge's Coice

Basement Revolver: Judge's Coice

Having written songs about anything and everything since the age of 14, Chrisy Hurn initially did so to express herself as an angsty teenager thinking it would up her cool-factor. I developed and refined the more I learned, says Hurn, Im still learning a lot, and the more I learn the more I grow creatively. So, keep an eye out for Basement Revolver come September 11th-13th 2015, and be sure to congratulate the bands in the halls.  

At ease, singing soldiers and musical musketeers, youve fought this battle well.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Theater in Review: "Harvey" Hits Redeemer's Stage

David Feddema

The goal of Mary Chase’s Harvey, written in 1944, was to alleviate some of the wartime grief of the period through comedy. Director Dennis Curley nicely emphasized that history in the programme for Redeemer’s production.

Redeemer’s production of the play worked to rediscover this conventional form of theatre, rather than interfere with the play’s comedic elements by injecting foreign artistic choices. It is the focus on the play’s original intent, as well as splendid performances by the cast, that made Harvey an enjoyable experience.

The play opens with a dinner social where Veta Simmons and her daughter Myrtle Mae discuss dignity and unrealized social life. The audience is then introduced to Veta’s brother Elwood P. Dowd, a man of significant peculiarity whose oddness is revealed to be sourced by a friendship with an “imaginary” six foot, three-and-one-half inch pooka named Harvey. Since no one but Elwood is privy to the presence of Harvey, they cause commotion and embarrassment as family and doctors attempt to admit Elwood into a sanatorium.

Rediscovering the original comedic intent of this play did not produce many unique staging or technical choices; rather, it was geared towards creating a neutral set where the actors could dominate. The functionality of the set recognized this goal with practical simplicity. The walls themselves were painted in hues of green and brown, and the doors were kept solid brown. Upon the walls were few decorations: only a painting, a fireplace, a bookshelf and a window cut into the furthest wall. Nothing could steal one’s attention away from the action of the comedy. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there was little about the set that helped to support the actors’ performances. It was an unassuming set that neither excited nor bored; rather, it was simply the environment for the action.

The play itself was characterized by the splendid performance by many of the cast. Filled with smaller roles that were executed well, the ensemble as a whole performed strongly. There were plenty of moments within “Chumley’s Rest” where ensemble members scooted through the back corridor as though they were loose patients, causing hilarious disturbances. This directorial choice was aided by retracting any serious tone, and it kept the action light and on its feet.

Despite having been born of good intentions and often working effectively, there were, however, times when this device seemed like unplanned interruptions. It made one think to compromise the quality of Chumley’s Rest, which is made explicitly known in the play. Though an interesting and humorous choice, this element felt too unpredictable.

Three of the notable performances were from Aaron Wilkinson, Jordan Guetter and Catherine McGeorge who played Elwood P. Dowd, Dr. Chumley and Veta Simmons respectively. Though these three were definitely not the only noteworthy performers, they brought a defined focus and pacing to the plot. Each actor brought a cleverly different element of comedy to the stage and complimented the other performers with it. The difference between a good performance and a great one is that a great one improves other actors’ performances as opposed to “stealing the show.” With energy fully charged, there were few dull moments on the stage.

Whether the play was being serious, exasperated, polite or pleasant, the audience relished the interaction between these characters. The moments of quick exchange were clear, which helped audience keep up with the plot. The actors made strong choices in voice and use of stage that made for an entertaining and fun experience.

Harvey was certainly enjoyable. Seeing the hard work that the crew had done come to fruition was a joy to watch. It made me proud to be able to watch the product of months of practice and smile and laugh.

 

 

Caucasian Chalk Circle: A Theatre Review

David Feddema

The production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle” done by Oxford University students at the Oxford Playhouse incorporated several excitingly artistic elements into the play while also disregarding some of the original playwright’s primary ideas.

 The play itself was written shortly after World War II, and the years of conflict covered within the epic play showcase the playwright’s thoughts and intentions. Opening with a dispute over land ownership in Soviet Russia, the play introduces the usefulness of theatre in the hopes to solve the argued issue. This scene reveals to the spectators the context of the drama to come, but was cut from the Oxford Playhouse production. Because of this change, one is left with a staggeringly different interpretation.

 The audience is shown, instead, the play beginning with a rebellion that displaces the servant Grusha Vachnadze from her fiancé, the soldier Simon Chachava. The audience is then explicitly told of the temptation to do good by the narrator as Grusha takes and cares for a royal infant left behind. The story of their survival, however, is only half of the play; the other half is that of Azdak becoming judge over the land. Introduced as a rascal, Azdak takes the law into his own hands when he is judge and ends his career after presiding over Grusha and the governess’s case of the ownership of Michael.

 Within this production there were many elements that were inventive and daring. One of the predominant artistic choices made was to substitute the child Michael out for a puppet. This was an incredibly daring decision not only because he is the character that the end conflict pertains to, but also because the character must age six years on stage. These challenges were overcome quite successfully by the production company, who built a finely detailed puppet that was made up of many joints. When the child was a baby, it was no more than a bump in a bundle of blankets whose head was able to wobble. After aging, however, it took a puppeteer to bring life to the boy. They did this well, and the movements of the puppet were well rehearsed, able to portray a living, feeling child.

 A second artistic design that was well used was that of the set. The stage was mainly bare, and the only permanent fixture was the two leveled scaffold. The whole structure had a white sheet draped over it which was used to cast shadows from behind. This allowed the players to create seemingly endless parades of soldiers, or silhouettes of hanged men, solving the problem of a monstrous cast. The drape even extended with a blue sheet to be the required canyon between Simon and Grusha after their many years apart. The set design was an artistic method to solve the practical problems.

 As an ensemble, the student performers were mediocre with two exceptions, that of Luke Rollason playing Azdak and Jack Sain playing Arkadi. Their performances brought energy into the action, and their appreciation for comedic timing lighted upon the more serious undertone of the play.  

 In regards to the authorial intention of the performance of the play, the Oxford University students’ production obviously took a step in a different direction. Bertolt Brecht was a firm believer in verfremdungseffeket: the idea that in order to have an audience consider seriously the content of a play, the production must be self-consciously theatrical and rid the audience of suspense. The way the play was originally written is a testament to this theory, beginning every scene with the summary of the action to come, and having the play-within-a-play watched by both patrons and performing observers. Finally, Brechtian plays have been most successful and authentic to the text when the actors play in a distanced and cooled down approach, rather than have the audience caught up in the emotional tension. These elements were seemingly purposefully abandoned by the production; instead, the action was performed the same way a typical drama would be.

 The characters were brought to life, and the audience was led through the story with a clear emotional idea of which mother was in the right at the end. The production, however, didn’t solely stick with conventional theatrical devices. They included the introduction of each scene, kept the narrator as an external storyteller and had the musicians somewhat exposed to sight. These devices weren’t inherently advantageous or disadvantageous aspects; they simply lacked a clear reason. Whereas a Brechtian production gives them the purpose of breaking down the idea that theatre is an illusion, this production claimed no overt resolve.

 The play was entertaining and utilized some interesting components to make the production engaging for the audience. It had well done performances but in areas was lacking justification for production decisions. While as an attempt at Brechtian theatre it was poor, as a story it was well performed and artistically clever with some unclear choices.

Chips Ahoy with otto de Bruijne: An Interview with the Creator of the Canvas Chapel

Elise Arsenault | Reporter

On the 3rd of October, I had the delightful opportunity to speak with Dutch artist Otto De Bruijne and his wife Renée over tea and cookies. Sporting a grey beret and a cheeky smile, de Bruijne answered all my questions with the utmost warmth and sincerity. Certain answers he shouted, others he whispered and many he accompanied with song (until his wife gave him a playful nudge and some Dutch chastising).

 I am therefore honoured to share with you a selection of the wisdom this man offered with a sharpened wit and golden heart.

Otto with his wife, Renee.

Otto with his wife, Renee.

: Is one of your paintings, or a certain group of them, closest to your heart?

 Otto de Bruijne: In 1992, I had a burnout. I was about 41 or 42, and I had worked for twenty years in missions in Africa. But then I was home and so tired, and it took me one and a half years to come out of that.

 That is when I first began drawing and eventually painting. I made fourteen paintings, all 80 by 80 centimetres, of the symbols in the Church. They were my first works in painting, and I did them in nine weeks! It’s crazy because they’re all 80 by 80 centimetres! All acrylic, in a kind of graphic design, all very fresh and strong. It was then that I knew I was an artist.

  : Did you ever intend to pursue the arts before 1992?

 Otto de Bruijne: No! No! I must say that it was the Lord that guided me. It may sound strange, but I thought that missions alone was what I was supposed to do. Then the Lord said to me, “Many people can do this, but there’s only one who can use your unique gifts.”

 Of course it was good to do all these amazing things, but was it the best for me? Sometimes the good is the enemy of the best, you see? My call is a creative call, and the Lord had to show me that.

 In effect, I worked for 20 years in a relief and development agency to help the poor. Now, I am 20 years further, and I am doing arts. Both are commissions given by the Lord. Both are equally valid. Both are equally in the heart of the Lord. There’s no discrepancy, there’s no contradiction between the two. It’s the same Lord; it’s the same call. And what is the basis of this all? It is communication. He called me as a communicator. Maybe in 10 years time I’ll be communicating in a different way!

  : So what was the defining moment that turned your heart from missions to art?

 Otto de Bruijne: As you know, I was in a burnout and depressed. What was the turning point? I was driving along the rivers in my country when I saw a very old church, which was from the 10th century and built in the classic Roman style. I saw it on the border of the river, with trees all around it in spring. I thought, “I have to draw this,” so I went to a bookshop and bought a drawing pad and pencil, and I sat there for a full day. Morning, to afternoon, to six o’clock, I drew this church. The next day I came back, then the third day, then the fourth day, then the fifth day – the same church – for six days!

 I realized that in difficult times, you are inward-looking. Of course you have to do that for a while, but then you must become outward-looking. I had to look outward to see and to draw the church and the trees. I was concentrated not on myself but on the objects. That is what took me out of myself. When I drew it, I rediscovered again that drawing and painting are my gifts. That is when I made the fourteen paintings. First it was a therapy, then it became a calling.

: You evidently have such joy in the Lord! Have you always?

Otto de Bruijne: When I came to Christ I relativized myself. I started laughing at myself because I saw that I am just this little man! We come by for eighty years or so and then we are a leaf in the wind. It was then that I found humour, for humour is the ability to relativize ourselves, to reduce ourselves to the right proportions. We must find this humour, because today all of man is either puffing himself up, or talking himself down.

 So when people ask how I became a Christian, I say it is because of joy. I still remember when I came to youth group as a teenager and there was a song, it was a revived hymn sung with a trumpet. Oh, I’ll never forget that trumpet! The trumpet brought me to Christ!

: What would you say to someone caught between their heart’s desire and what might seem more practical?

Otto de Bruijne: It depends very much on your age, for first you have to experiment and make mistakes. You have to discover, over many years, how to discern between the good and the best.

 We were foster parents for five children when we were married at 21 or 22 years old. We wanted to serve the Lord and do something good, but we were not good in it at all! So after two years we had to stop, but we did try.

There’s a certain time of your life that you have to serve in an environment that you have not created yourself. You must walk a path where others are with you and you are not the chief; first you have to learn.

 Then you develop and create your own path, this is the difference between a pupil and a teacher. A teacher has found his own path. Somewhere, uphill, you will make a path for your own uniqueness, but people want to do that too early. They become arrogant, but you have to have a period of being taught where you are first shaped and moulded.

  : What is one last thought you’d like to leave with Redeemer students?

Otto de Bruijne: For the students, I would say this. If you lay your ear on the heart of the Father, the Father will tell you that you are His dream. He will say that He wants your life to blossom to the fullness of what He has in mind for you. So please, hear His voice.