In 1977, while serving as Tabernacle organist, Robert Cundick took on a task any faithful follower of Christ would find daunting, even someone with Brother Cundick's musical credentials.
Ralph Woodward, music professor at BYU, had selected scriptures as text for a musical service depicting the doctrines and Atonement of Jesus Christ. He called upon Brother Cundick to set the text to music, a formidable challenge largely because, unlike most poetry, the words of scripture have no meter.
Brother Cundick quickly found it absolutely essential to seek inspiration from the very Source of those words. Through an intense 10 weeks, he found that if he approached the Lord in prayer before approaching the piano, the musical notation would stream from his pen.
What resulted is the masterpiece, "The Redeemer," a work performed in identical concerts March 21-22 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle as this year's Easter offering of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.
Mack Wilberg conducted the choir and orchestra, with soloists Sara Thomas, soprano, in the role of Mary; sopranos Jennifer Welch-Babidge and Rebecca Wilberg and mezzo-soprano Laura Garff Lewis as angels; baritone Darrell Babidge as the Savior; and baritone Shane Warby and bass-baritone Clayton Brainerd as prophets.
The work is considered so sacred that notations in the printed program and on a television screen in the Tabernacle instructed the audience that it is intended to be performed from beginning to end without interruption or distraction, and applause should be held until the conclusion of the postlude.
Drawn from all four of the Church's Standard Works of scripture, "The Redeemer" is composed of three parts: "The Prophecy," "The Sacrifice," and "The Promise."
Part I draws upon prophecies from 1 and 2 Nephi, Mosiah, Alma and Helaman in the Book of Mormon, and from the gospel of Luke to convey the message that the Messiah would be born of Mary and be called the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.
Part II turns to passages in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Old Testament Book of Job, as well as the Book of Mormon to tell of Christ's atoning sacrifice.
The work culminates in Part III with a glorious declaration of the hope and light to be gained from the Savior's resurrection and Atonement, as taught by Book of Mormon prophets and latter-day revelation, and the admonition to "watch, that ye may be ready" (Doctrine and Covenants 50:41-46).
During a standing ovation, the appreciative audience was treated to an appearance by the composer himself, who retired in 1991 after 27 years as Tabernacle organist and is now 81.
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