Soul Cries: more than a concert
by Joyce Rempel
You’ve read them, prayed them, perhaps even wailed them in your deepest anguish: prayers from the Bible, uttered in centuries past by real people in real places and recorded for our encouragement in the pages of scripture. Now a Calgary composer, Jayne Luy, has transformed some of these prayers into lush musical settings.
‘Soul Cries’ is a concert experience choral music lovers will not want to miss. This Oratorio-style masterpiece includes multiple genres appropriate to each text with a brief narrative between songs. Various solos and duets are interwoven with choral pieces, performed by the newly formed Alpha Omega Music Ensemble and orchestra, directed by Maestro Humberto Vargas.
The prayer of Moses from Exodus 33 opens the collection in the style of an African folk song, followed by Numbers 14 and Psalm 90 in a polyphonic male Chorale. Most songs are in English, but Hannah’s Prayer from 1 Samuel is a beautiful Latin text in the Baroque/Renaissance style. Other genres include Pastorale, Aria, Classical, Assyrian Chant, Operetta, and Soul. A chamber orchestra provides accompaniment except for one a capella selection.
The newly formed Ensemble is a diverse, multi-generational group of experienced musicians Ages range from 22 to 69 years with one pre-teen soloist and five different nationalities are represented. The artists are united by their love for God and the desire to express their faith through beautiful music. “We do this for the glory of God alone,” says Vargas. “The Ensemble is named ‘Alpha Omega’ to remind us that Christ is first. Everything else is secondary.”
Maestro Vargas, originally from Mexico City, first obtained his bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering and has spent his working career as an engineer, “Because you have to eat!” he laughs. He studied bassoon at the National School of Music in Mexico City and later, through a series of miracles, was accepted for and achieved a Master’s of Conducting in Montreal. Vargas gratefully recounts, “The Lord opened the door like only He can, giving me the opportunity so I can do more for God. The talent comes from God, not from yourself. It is to serve and share.”
Composer Jayne Luy was born and raised in Alberta. She studied piano from age six but left it in University due to burnout, switching her major to Languages. Through a series of events, God called her specifically to songwriting. She began developing her craft. During one decade, Jayne lived in five different countries, a benefit of her husband’s career. In each place they connected with a local church fellowship and she continued producing music. She teaches piano, serves as a translator and is founder of the Calgary band, Hope’s Creed.
Luy and Vargas met at First Alliance Church, where they both volunteer; Luy as Resident Songwriter and Vargas as Orchestra Conductor. Since they speak fluent Spanish, their families became friends. Vargas encouraged Luy’s songwriting gift. Jayne recalls, “Humberto said to me that I should write something. ‘Think about it, pray about it,’ he said, ‘and then write it and we will perform it.’” She had already written one musical and was at a loss as to what to write. After months had passed, she told Vargas, “I don’t have any ideas. I don’t have any inspiration. I don’t know what I’m going to write.” He suggested, “Why not just the prayers of the Bible?”
“When I heard that,” Luy said, “My heart just jumped!” She began writing “Soul Cries” in October 2018 and the first rehearsal was held in mid-April. “It’s been a real Holy Spirit thing,” Luy said. “There were so many amazing moments. One of the most unique was when I turned to get a drink out of the fridge and a whole chorus popped into my mind all at once. I had to rush to get a pencil.”
Both conductor and composer emphasize this venture goes beyond simply making beautiful music. Maestro Vargas implores, “Pray for this concert. Please. We are seeking prayer. We don’t want just a concert. We want something else.” He emphasizes that the music is just a tool. “It increases our receptivity to the message of Christ. As we worship God in spirit and truth through the music, the Holy Spirit moves and miracles happen.”
Luy agrees, “It needs to be a ministry, an experience where people feel that the Bible becomes very near and very real.”
A portion of proceeds will go to support Cornerstone of Hope, a Calgary-based non-profit dedicated to supporting children and parents during separation, divorce, or death.
The premiere presentation of ‘Soul Cries’ is at First Baptist Church on Saturday, May 25 at 7 p.m. with an encore presentation at First Church of the Nazarene on Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m. Tickets for both performances are $10, available at the door or in advance at www.AlphaOmegaMusicEnsemble.com/shows.