The Garden (2015)
Duration: approx. 5:30
This meditation for Brass Band was requested by Dean Jones and Salvation Brass for the band's 2015 Easter tour of Ontario, Canada. The brief was for an Easter devotional work. This provided me with a rare and welcome opportunity to compose music that is reflective in style.
In preparing the music I was drawn to the Easter morning account as told in John 20 - when Mary Magdalene visited the garden where Christ's tomb was and discovered that the door had been removed. Later, after first thinking he is the gardener, she was the first person to see Jesus risen from the dead. I was absorbed by the thoughts and feelings that Mary likely experienced on that day, and also considered the significance of two encounters: a conversation with two angels, and then being the first person to see the risen Christ; what a privilege - and responsibility!
The most important day in Mary's life began early on Sunday morning while it was "still dark" (John 20:1) where, according to the synoptic gospels, she and some other women had gone to the tomb after Jesus' Friday burial to bring spices as was their tradition (they couldn't go on Saturday as it was the Sabbath). They discovered that the tomb was empty and so went to find some of the other disciples. After the disciples had been to the tomb to confirm what the women had witnessed, Mary was alone in the garden and spoke with two angels (a symbol that the events had involved God's presence and power). Now, she was hardly in Jesus' inner circle when compared with the apostles, yet it was to her that the angels appeared - I find that fascinating.
Later, in what must have been an incredible, joy-filled encounter, Mary met the risen Jesus. John's account is succinct but I imagine this important personal reunion would not have been brief. After all, she had been part of Jesus' fraternity for some time (see Luke 8:1-3; Matt. 27:55; John 19:25). My mind (and therefore the music) contemplates the kind of conversation that would have taken place. Eventually Mary returned to the disciples saying, "I have seen the Lord!" (20:18).
Rather than tell the story verse by verse, the music through three Easter songs seeks to explore some of Mary's thoughts and feelings: of fond friendship; of alarm & confusion, sorrow & remorse; and later - of astonishment, elation and joy. Keith & Kristyn Getty's popular modern ballad The Power of the Cross complements a reference to the traditional hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (tune: Hamburg) in the first half, whilst the inclusion of Behold the Lamb by the former Toronto-based Christian rock group Sovereign Voice provides a Canadian link in the second.
Behold the Lamb, behold the LambThe Prince of peace, the great I am.See the nail prints in His hands.He comes in power and majestyTo break the power of sin over meHow the righteous lift your handsAnd behold the Lamb.Look, can you see?They crucified my Lord because of me.With thorns on his brow,They nailed him to a cross at Calvary.But hope finds a placeEven in the darkness of our raceThere from his sideThere flows the blood of his grace.
As I concluded the music the thought occurred to me that Christian songwriters often refer to the human heart as a 'garden.' How true it is that in our own hearts we too experience sorrow, remorse, elation and joy. It is in the garden of our heart that we need the risen Christ to dwell. So the music concludes with a brief reference to that old SA chorus 'Lily of the Valley' (Sidney E. Cox) which calls to mind a personal prayer that Christ might "Bloom in all thy beauty in the garden of my heart."
Jesus, Jesus, lily of the valley,Bloom in all thy beauty in the garden of my heart;Jesus, Jesus, lily of the valley,Bloom in all thy beauty in the garden of my heart.