Walking with Jesus: American Festival Chorus premiers new piece Easter weekend

Apr 18, 2019

Some Christians may have wondered what would it have been like to walk with Jesus Christ after his resurrection, yet not know who he was.

This weekend, a performance by the American Festival Chorus will explore this idea during the premiere of a newly composed piece, “To a Village Called Emmaus.”

“We want every person to feel like they are a traveler on that road,” said Ethan Wickman, the piece’s composer. “The music creates space for them to consider what this companionship would mean to them.”

“To a Village Called Emmaus” follows the journey of Jesus and two of his disciples shortly after he was resurrected, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. The disciples still believed Jesus was dead and did not immediately recognize who they were walking with.

Using words from various translations of the Bible and multiple languages, the librettist Glen Nelson created lyrics that imagined what this journey may have been like.

“We wanted to create something that had universal appeal for people that are believers of all faiths, (and) even people that would look at the story as just a tale, as a work of literature,” Wickman said.

Once these words were written, Wickman composed the music that would bring the piece to life.

Craig Jessop, director of the chorus, commissioned the piece nearly two years ago. A grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation paid for its creation.

Both he and Wickman said they don’t know of any other musical settings of this story.

“This is a real contribution,” Jessop said. “Not just living in another idea that someone has already done and done and done.”

Throughout his musical career, Jessop said he has been part of many commissions. He said he calls the experience “trick or treat.”

“I can’t tell you how many commissions get one performance and end up on the shelf,” Jessop said. “This is a treat. My prediction is this will have legs.”

“To a Village Called Emmaus” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Daines Concert Hall, 600 E. 1150 North, Logan. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Caine College of the Arts box office at (435)797-8022.

By Matilyn Mortensen staff writer