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Cornerstone University Chorale Joins Grand Rapids Symphony for Inspirational Music in First-Ever Collaboration

News April 12, 2016

Grand Rapids Symphony, for the first time in its 86-year history, collaborates with the Cornerstone University Chorale for a program of music, “Sacred Dimensions: Sacred Stories,” on Sunday, April 17, 2016, at 6:30 p.m.

The performance will be held in Cornerstone University’s new Christ Chapel. Opened in September 2015, the $14 million chapel is the first dedicated space for worship in the 75-year history of the university founded in 1941 as Baptist Bible Institute.

The inspiration for the concert is four, large, contemporary, stained-glass windows in Christ Chapel, each composed of at least 1,000 pieces of glass, created by Danish painter and sculptor Peter Brandes.

“As far as I know, there are no other Christian colleges taking on this type of scale and intentionality in designing a chapel site. Cornerstone’s effort is quite unique,” Makoto Fujimura, artist and director of Fuller Theological Seminary’s Brehm Center, said in an interview for the December 2015 edition of Christianity Today.

Music, including Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, is part of the evening program that’s a musical tour of the windows for the first half of the program.

The Cornerstone University Chorale joins the Grand Rapids Symphony to sing John Rutter’s Requiem in the second half.

John Varineau, associate conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony, and Dr. Kent Walters, director of the Cornerstone University Chorale, both lead the program.

Cornerstone in the past has hired members of the Grand Rapids Symphony to perform at the college. But this is the first, full-scale Grand Rapids Symphony performance, led by one of its own conductors, at the independent, evangelical institution.

“The venue, our new chapel, makes it possible,” said Dr. Kent Walters, director of choral studies at Cornerstone University. “And the celebration of the university’s 75th anniversary year was the impetus for the invitation.”

Each of the four windows in Christ Chapel portrays a different theme, and musical selections were chosen to reflect each theme.

  • The South Window—Recalling Old Testament stories on the relationship between blessing and mercy: Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 49 (1st movement)—Composed in 1768, it was dubbed “The Passion” for its dark-hued, somber, opening movement. By giving the symphony a religious-themed nickname, it became permissible for it to be performed in the northern German city of Schwerin during Holy Week, when secular music typically was prohibited.
  • The West Window—Reflecting on the baptism of Jesus in the New Testament: Ralph Vaughan Williams: Variations on Aberystwyth—Practical matters produced the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams “Household Music: Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes,” which the composer wrote in 1940-41 during World War II. Composed for string quartet, Vaughan Williams meant for the piece to be performed by any combination of instruments available. The orchestra will perform one of the three preludes, a set of variations on the Welsh tune, Aberystwyth, whose English-language settings include, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”
  • The East Window—Portraying the Resurrection of Jesus: Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 30 (1st movement)—Haydn’s Symphony No. 30 was dubbed “Alleluia” because the composer used a portion of a Gregorian Alleluia chant as the principal theme for its first movement.
  • The North Window—Depicting Passion Week leading to Easter:
    • Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings—Voted the “saddest classical work ever” by listeners of BBC’s Today program in 2004, is one of the best-known orchestral works of the 20th century. Debuted in 1938 by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra—a recording selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress, the 8-minute piece was broadcast over the radio following the announcement of President Roosevelt’s death in 1945 and on TV after the announcement of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.
    • John Rutter’s Requiem—With texts in Latin from the Roman Catholic Liturgy for the Dead plus psalms in English, was premiered in 1985 in the United States. The work for soprano soloist, choir and orchestra lasts 40 minutes.


Tickets for “Sacred Dimensions: Sacred Stories” are $30 for reserved seats, $20 for senior citizen reserved seats, and $5 for Cornerstone University faculty and staff, Grand Rapids Symphony musicians and staff, and all students with ID. Group discounts are available. Tickets are available through Cornerstone University. Tickets will be available at the door for an additional fee of $3.

About the Cornerstone University Chorale

The Cornerstone University Chorale is a select choral ensemble of 40 singers, open by audition to full-time students at Cornerstone University, including non-music majors. Directed by Kent Walters, associate professor of music and Director of Choral Studies, the University Chorale performs perform a variety of choral literature from Renaissance to contemporary genres including gospel and spirituals.

The Chorale focuses on the expression of beauty in choral artistry, combining musicianship and servant hearts for the glory of God and the consequent joy of both singer and audience. In recent years the Chorale has concertized in Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany, as well as the East Coast, and the Midwest in the United States. In March, the Chorale toured for 12 days to Florida during spring break. A European tour is planned for 2017.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs.

Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival and provides the orchestra for performance by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Nov. 24, 2015

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