Sound Theology by Colleen Butcher

Artists and Their Thoughts –Frederic Delius

There is only one real happiness in life, and that is the happiness of creating.

 — Frederick Delius

Although born in England, Delius spent almost all of his adult creative life in France and Germany. His style reflects the recognizable, pastoral meanderings of other late-nineteenth century English composers such as Stanford, Vaughan-Williams, and Parry. However, the primary German and French influences – Wagner and Chopin – taught him important lessons in melody expansion and development. Delius was an intentional student and, perhaps because he didn’t begin his musical studies until late in his 20’s, his style developed uniquely from the breadth and depth of experiences he had with the major composers in Leipzig and Paris. Many of his contemporaries recognized his gift, including Grieg, who finally convinced Delius’ father to allow him to embrace composition full-time. read more…

Artists and Their Thoughts –George F. Handel

Can music make us better people? Clearly, Handel wrote with this purpose in mind; he believed it was possible to write music that would inspire and transform. Handel’s many works based on scripture have had profound effects on generations of musicians and audiences. The Messiah is one of the most well-known choral works in the repertoire, with hundreds of performances every year. It’s sublime movements can definitely change and move our hearts in ways that are both unexpected and long-lasting.

If you were to agree that music can make us better people, which pieces would you add to the list of candidates? From any genre and generation, what music makes you aspire to be a better person, opens your heart, or moves far beyond simple entertainment? From Handel’s oeuvre, the works on this week’s playlist definitely inspire me. From the glorious, soaring harmonies and timbre of the violins in Zadok the Priest, to the counterpoint and relentlessness of Messiah’s Amen, Handle’s music goes far beyond entertainment for those who have ears open. read more…

Artists and Their Thoughts –Eric Whitacre

I believe now more than ever that singing is a universal, built-in mechanism designed to cultivate empathy and compassion.

— Eric Whitacre


Research has shown that simply by looking and smiling at each other, moms and babies synchronize their heartbeats to within milliseconds of each other. Research has also shown that, overtime, the heartbeats of those who sing together in a choir synchronize.

Singing has the power to make connections between people that go far beyond the superficial. Like smiling, singing activates neurotransmitters that give us good feelings. We all know that listening to music can help relax or energize us: our bodies take on the rhythmic energy of what we hear. Singing in a choir, and listening to voices raised in song, resonates deeply, in ways that we are still working to understand. read more…

Artists and Their Thoughts – Oscar Peterson

It’s the group sound that’s important, even when you’re playing a solo. You not only have to know your own instrument, you must know the others and how to back them up at all times. That’s jazz.

— Oscar Peterson


Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson walked the talk. His list of collaborators is long and illustrious: Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, not to mention his longtime trio-mates Ray Brown and Herb Ellis (who was later succeeded by Ed Thigpin).

Peterson’s career as a piano soloist began in 1940, when at the age of 14, he won the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s national music competition. In 1949 Peterson met impresario Norman Granz, the founder of Verve Records. His connection with Granz led to a series of recordings with two other musicians and the Oscar Peterson Trio was born. For the majority of his career, the Trio was the mainstay of his artistic life. read more…

Artists and Their Thoughts 2

To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.

—Leonard Bernstein


This well-known quote by American-born composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein usually elicits laughter; partly because of its wittiness, but mostly because it hits very close to the truth. As a composer, Bernstein probably experienced the intensity of a deadline. I am sure that he constantly felt the pressure of the never-enough-time orchestral rehearsal schedule. But this quote belies a recognition that there is something about greatness that is out of our control. Great things often appear when there is a combination of planning and serendipity. Kingdom reality happens when our actions meets the Spirit’s breath. A miracle is miraculous because there’s “not enough.” Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money, not enough people. read more…