Arts

Lamb of God

Leader Jen Randall's "calling" to bring Easter oratorio to Kalamazoo

When Jen Randall and her business partner named their technology company Maestro, it had nothing to do with Randall’s penchant for music; rather, they saw themselves conducting an orchestra of individuals and agencies to meet their clients’ needs.

According to Randall, it is entirely coincidental that she is now a maestro in the musical sense. In fact, although she is the driving force behind the performances of the Easter oratorio Lamb of God planned for March 21 and 22 at Chenery Auditorium, she would be the last person to call herself “maestro.”

Instead, Randall is mounting the production as an act of faith; it is something she felt God called her to do. “Last March I went to a performance of Lamb of God to surprise a friend who was appearing in it,” she says, “but it was I who was surprised — at its beauty, its majesty and its astounding power to move and transform.”

Written and composed by Rob Gardner, Lamb of God is described on the production’s website as “a sacred musical retelling of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, His atonement and Resurrection.” Drawn from the text of the King James Bible, the story is told through the eyes of figures who were close to Jesus: Peter, John, Thomas, Mary and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’ mother, Mary.

Randall attended a second performance and was struck, she says, with a divine inspiration. “I actually felt at that moment that I needed to bring this to Kalamazoo,” she says.

She immediately questioned the impulse as impractical, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the music. “I purchased a CD and I listened to it, and then I was singing it in the shower.”

Although the thought of launching such a production was a little daunting, she says, “I felt that if I was being asked to do that, then I had to make the first steps to see if it was viable. And as I made those first steps, then doors just started opening.”

Randall does have musical experience — she played clarinet and saxophone in school bands from sixth grade through college and has directed her church choir for several seasons. But more than that, producing Lamb of God has called for the ability to orchestrate a host of players, as Randall does at her business.

The oratorio requires a 55-piece orchestra, 140 choir members, 13 soloists and two narrators. To find performers, Randall contacted about 250 churches and networked with organizations such as the Kalamazoo Philharmonia community orchestra.

Most of the singers and many orchestra members have come from area congregations. “We have just some amazing talent from churches all over, which was a big part of my goal,” Randall says. “I don’t want this to be about any one church. This is about all the Kalamazoo community coming together to celebrate their faith in Christ.”

The company features professional musicians as well as skilled amateurs. The instrumentalists include members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and two of the vocal soloists have appeared on Broadway: Jeremy Koch, of Farmers Alley Theatre, and Angela Hecker, of Greenville, S.C., with whom Randall once worked at Johnson & Johnson. Explaining why she is bringing someone from so far away to be a part of the production, Randall says, “When I first heard this, when I heard the role of Mother Mary, I heard Angela’s voice.”

The performers are scheduled to have seven weekly rehearsals leading up to the two performances at Chenery.

During church choir rehearsals, Randall has frequently been so moved by the music that she finds herself sobbing. “Music in my opinion just opens this clear channel for the Spirit to be able to touch you,” she says.

She hopes others are as touched by Lamb of God as she was. Accordingly, tickets are being sold through www.lambofgodkalamazoo. com at the nominal cost of $5. “I want as many people to come as can come,” Randall says. She also will work with churches to provide complementary tickets for anyone who cannot afford them.

In recruiting performers, Randall asked people to “come be a part of the miracle.” “It will be through (God’s) hand that we’ll be able to accomplish the things that he’s asked us to do,” she says.

“If it’s the Lord’s plan, it will be (successful). If it were just my merits, if it was just my talent, then I would fall flat on my face, but it’s not me. I’m doing everything that I can that I know I need to do or I know how to do, and then ... every day I’m on my knees asking for guidance and help, and that’s really the story.”

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