Every Easter, the American Red Cross, together with the Interfaith Community of Northern California, celebrates the gift of life. This joyful effort was barely imagined a decade ago. Now, the beautiful music and sense of giving has taken hold, fostering friendships among the churches and throughout the community. All it took was an invitation.
Archibishop Cordileone first suggested holding an Interfaith concert that resulted in Lamb of God. In 2011, then Bishop Cordileone of the Oakland Diocese met with leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to suggest that the two groups work together on an Interfaith service project. It was decided in that meeting to conduct an East Bay Interfaith Blood Drive. That began a tradition that has resulted in one of the largest faith-based blood drives in the U.S. for the American Red Cross. This drive spans areas throughout northern California in July and now includes numerous faith-based organizations. In that first year when Bishop Cordileone expressed his desire and his vision, an Easter concert was suggested to connect the gift of blood to the community with an event that also honors the gift of life through Jesus Christ. At that time, director Alan Chipman was preparing to present Lamb of God sometime in the foreseeable future, though he hadn't anticipated it for that year. But when he got the call to join the effort, there was no question or hesitation but to switch his plans to a production fast track. It quickly became a wonderful Easter season tradition.
Rob Gardner's Lamb of God is a modern masterpiece that brings the story and meaning of Easter to life. The songs tell the story of the final days of Christ's life leading to the Savior's crucifixion and resurrection. The story unfolds through the eyes of his followers, including Peter, John, Mary the Mother, and Martha. When writing the music, Mr. Gardner knew that he did not want someone on the stage physically portraying the part of Jesus. Instead, the cello soloist is used to represent Christ. The voice of the cello becomes the actions and words of Jesus. The style of the oratorio is somewhat similar to the ensemble style of the music of Les Mis and the choir and instruments are as much a part of telling the story as the soloists. When finished with their solos, those singers become part of the crowd, rejoining the choir as one of the disciples or onlookers of the events.
Mr. Gardner bases the words of the oratorio on the King James version of the Holy Bible, but also uses each soloist's character to share some insight into how they view themselves in relationship to Jesus and to what Jesus taught them.
When asked to share his feelings about his experience conducting this musical masterpiece, Alan Chipman replies, "I have been directing choirs, orchestras and musical performances for over 40 years, both religious and secular. No music we have ever performed has more meaningful impact on the heart and soul as Rob Gardner's Lamb of God. The words are precious. The music touches the spirit of all who hear it. The message testifies of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross and atonement for all mankind. What a beautiful Easter musical experience for me to stand in front of the choir and orchestra and hear this powerful message."
That's just part of the story. During the audition and rehearsal process, people are moved and inspired far more than ever expected. Many who may be feeling pain or affliction find themselves comforted and healed through the spirit of the music. Audiences and participants' families are also moved. People contribute their time and talents. Even the composer relinquishes his copyrights. Diversity holds hands, embracing humanity. Good begets more good. Come get some for yourself during one of our performances.
Editor's Suggestion: Attend an early show. You will likely be so moved that you'll think of others whom you'll invite to see it with you again, before the season ends.
Lamb of God has 13 vocal soloist roles, cello soloist, and 2 narrators, plus adult and youth choirs and orchestra. The style of this oratorio is more like Les Miserables than like a more traditional oratorio, such as Messiah or The Redeemer. The soloists, choir, and even the orchestra are part of the ensemble presentation. And every now and then, one or more will step out from the crowd and sing or play a role. The style of the vocal solos is lyrical and story-telling in nature as opposed to the more ornate aria style in a more traditional oratorio or opera. The choir plays the role of an unruly crowd at times and shines as a heavenly choir at other times. All vocal soloists are part of that crowd when they are not singing their solo parts. You can hear examples of the music for Lamb of God at SpireMusic.org.
Even within the orchestra there are a number of solos throughout the work that stand on their own or complement the soloists. All must play their role for the story to unfold.
We prefer that all soloists come to the initial auditions prepared with an audition song that is not from Lamb of God, but it is helpful if in a similar style and range as Lamb of God.
All who pre-register are assigned an “audition hour.” Please come prepared to audition during that hour. Those listed first should be there early to finish registration, do a range check, and any warming up needed. We take you in the order of registration for that hour. There are rooms with pianos available for warm-ups.
Vocal Soloists should come prepared to sing a song of their choice that demonstrates the range, vocally and emotionally, that fits the role for which they are interested. Again, a lyrical style is preferred to a more formal operatic style of soloist. Please keep vocal selections to 3 minutes or less. Soloists selected for callbacks will be provided with music from Lamb of God to learn and present at callbacks. Please note that for some roles, you must not just demonstrate your solo abilities, but also your ability to fit well as part of a duet or trio. This is especially true for the three apostles and for Martha and Mary.
Cello Soloists should come ready to present a lyrical work of not more than 3 minutes in length. The selection should show a range of emotions. Think of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, meeting Pilate, or suffering on the cross. How would you portray that?
Narrators are one man and one woman. Come prepared to do a dramatic reading of no more than 2 minutes. You should also prepare to present a meaningful scripture. Some of the narration is directly from or paraphrasing scripture. Movement is not required as narration will be delivered from a seated position for Lamb of God. The Narrators are telling the story and should be engaging. It is okay to share the feeling and meaning of the words through your presentation of the narration.
Choir member candidates will do a range check and will sing their part in a hymn with others. Choir members who have sung in prior years do not need to audition, but should bring the completed information sheet to the first choir rehearsal, which is scheduled for Sunday, February 12. Rehearsals will be held on Sunday nights from 6 – 8:30 in Oakland and in a South Bay location.
Vocal Soloist Roles Available
The oratorio features 13 vocal soloists. Some alternate soloists will also be selected for some of the major roles. Alternate soloists will sing one of the performances, and of course must be prepared to step in and sing any performance where the primary is not able.
The following vocal soloist roles are needed:
Expectations for Vocal Soloists
To present a performance this Easter that will deeply enrich all who listen or participate, the following are expected of all soloists:
Oakland Interstake Center: 4770 Lincoln Ave, Oakland, CA 94602
Contact: Alan Chipman, Director (408) 887-8428