Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts (DITA) at Duke Divinity School is sponsoring "Performing Faithfully: Music & Martyrdom," an evening of music and conversation reflecting on and remembering the lives of martyrs from opposite ends of the world who are connected by their shared faith.
The first half of the evening will feature the world premiere of Elegy, composed by Lu Pei of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in response to Duke Divinity Professor Lian Xi’s book Blood Letters: the Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China. Lin Zhao was the only known Chinese citizen to openly and steadfastly oppose communism under Mao during the Cultural Revolution. Her dissent was rooted in her Christian faith, and while in prison she used her own blood to write about what was happening to her country. Eight years later she was executed. After remarks by Dr. Lu and Dr. Lian, Elegy will be performed by Professor Jeremy Begbie on the piano, along with three members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra: John Ferrillo (oboe), Elizabeth Ostling (flute), and Bill Hudgins (clarinet)
The second half of the evening will feature a conversation with Salvadoran composer Carlos Colón, followed by performances of his Requiem: Las Lamentaciones de Rufina Amaya and “Veo Violencia en la Ciudad,” a work composed in celebration of the canonization of Oscar Romero. Colón’s Requiem was inspired by the courageous witness of Rufina Amaya, the sole survivor of the El Mozote massacre. One of the most haunting stories is that of a young evangelical Christian girl who sang praises even after being shot. Amaya’s story was corroborated by former soldiers who participated in the massacre, and El Mozote remains the worst single massacre in Latin American history. Instrumentalists and singers from around the Triangle area will join the trio from the Boston Symphony for performances of Colón’s work.
The event is being made possible with the generous support from the Office of the Vice Provost of the Arts at Duke University through a Collaboration Development Grant, and is co-sponsored by the Duke Department of Music, the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and the Asian Pacific Studies Institute.
About the Composers and Faculty
Carlos Colón is assistant director for worship and chapel at Baylor University. He is a composer, liturgist, and cultural promoter, specializing in music that is both academically serious and ecclesiastically valuable. His recent projects lie at the intersection of social justice and religious change. Colón was born in Chalchuapa, El Salvador. When he was 14, he was forced to leave El Salvador and took refuge in Guatemala City. A resident of the U.S. since 1986, he holds a B.M. from Belmont University and a M.M. from Baylor University. He became a U.S. citizen in 2001. His music has been performed in festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Colón’s international heritage and personal experience of civil war inform his compositions’ call to justice, peace, and beauty. His music has been performed in Carnegie Hall, Venezuela National Radio, the Calvin Worship Symposium, and Festival de Música Contemporánea of El Salvador.
Duke Divinity School Faculty
Professor Lian’s research is focused on China’s modern encounter with Christianity. Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China (2018) is his most recent book. It is the first authoritative, documented biography of the most important political dissident in Mao’s China, whose open opposition to communism was sustained by her Christian faith. His first book, The Conversion of Missionaries (1997), is a critical study of American Protestant missions against the backdrop of rising Chinese nationalism in the early twentieth century. His second book, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China (2010), winner of the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award, examines the development of missionary Christianity into a vibrant, indigenous faith of the Chinese masses. Dr. Lian’s other research projects include the flourishing of Christianity among minority peoples on the margins of the Chinese state and the emergence of Protestant elites and their prominent, if also precarious, role in the search for civil society in today’s China.
Notes from the Composers
About Lu Pei's Elegy
Scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, and piano, Elegy commemorates the life and martyrdom of Lin Zhao, who gave her young life in pursuit of freedom, in defiance of a crushing autocracy.
In this piece, faith battles against the forces of evil. The letters of the heroine’s name, spelling out a sequence of musical notes—B, G#, C#, C#, G, C, D—become a musical motto that guides and drives the composition.
Evoking divine mercy and redemption for humanity, the piece offers a musical rendering of Lin Zhao’s life that journeyed from youthful beliefs in communism to a vision of God’s light.
The music begins with a variation of "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber. In the lower registers of the piano, a succession of deep, sonorous notes, followed by dance-like sprays of ocean waves on the woodwinds, introduce us to the momentous inner surges in Lin Zhao propelled by her Christian faith. The intensity and texture of the music then deepen in a dramatic progression toward a grief-stricken, climatic outcry against the demonic autocracy.
Thereafter we are led into the kingdom of God, as the piano, in a variation of J. S. Bach’s "Passacaglia in C minor," ripples over the pure and bright waters of the heavenly river. There the piece ends, enveloped in celestial radiance.
About Carlos Colón's Requiem: Las Lamentaciones de Rufina Amaya
Requiem: Las Lamentaciones de Rufina Amaya was premiered on May 7, 2008 at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Even though the work specifically commemorates the Mozote Massacre at the beginning of the civil war in El Salvador, it is the composer’s wish for this work to be a lament for all the victims of the war. As a native of El Salvador, it is my hope that it will be received as a song of remembrance for all the Salvadorans that died during such a tragic chapter of our history.
The majority of the piece is sung in Latin, with the hope that it may console and inspire other peace-loving dwellers of this world of God.
The event is free to attend, but registration is required to guarantee a seat in Goodson Chapel.