Through you, the Liturgical Arts Program brings compassion and understanding to a community
How do you change hearts and minds about the madness of war and violence? How do you get people talking about families torn apart, running frantically from terrorizing oppression? How do we frame a conversation about the connectedness to our sisters and brothers in trouble? One way is to allow people to cry out, to lament, to be angry and heartbroken, to give voice to the voiceless.
Lamentations: Images of War and Protest, engaged the Catholic Community at Stanford and the Santa Clara University Community in just such an experience. Through music, dance, spoken word, and aching melodies the raw nerves of a struggle against violence was laid bare.
The performance piece utilized texts from the ancient biblical Book of Lamentations. These texts portray the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. They form the basis of the Jewish holiday Tisha b'Av, a day commemorating many catastrophes throughout the centuries. Santa Clara University Professor David Pleins re‐imagined the texts in a visceral translation adapted for today's war experiences.
Written in five parts, the work is narrated first by the Eyewitness, giving testimony to the horrors of war. Performed as a beat‐poem with saxophone and jazz piano accompaniment, it set the tone of despair caused by war. Part 2, narrated by the Victim, incorporated dancers from SCU, adding visual energy to the anguish. Our 40‐voice choir punctuated the Memorial Church and Mission Santa Clara with the riveting "Lamentations" arrangement by Z Randall Stroope, raising the victims' cries to a percussion‐accented scream that died away to the prayer, "Remember, Lord, consider and notice our humiliations and disgrace."
Part 3's Soldier, Lynn Johnson, served in Vietnam. HIs memories guided us through texts exploring the affects of war on the perpetrators of violence. With the choir serving as the voices in his head, the text reminded us of what happens to people's souls when they do great violence to another. SCU student Irene Kim's cello solo from Bach's Suite in D minor gave everyone time to reflect on what they had just seen and heard. Next, the Citizen's voice cried out against the senseless cycle of violence and the revenge which never lets it finish. 12 candles were extinguished as countries and victim counts were tallied. Syria, Iraq, Columbia, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and others reflected the sad reality of the texts for today. CC@S student Rosie la Puma sang the poignant "If the War Goes On", asking what happens if wars are allowed to continue forever unchecked.
In Part 5, the Survivor's voice, Stanford Professor Albert Gelpi laid bare the question of God's seeming indifference to tremendous suffering. Ending the performance with the haunting piece, "This World", we were left without a neat, happy ending, as the crushing ravages of war grind down both our humanity and spirituality.
What did we learn from this experience? Some thoughts: It is always good to work together, between diverse people. Engaging in a process that explores difficult questions often leads to greater understanding and action. Arts have power to convey emotions that stay hidden in other forms of discourse.