March 29, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 13

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    Vermeer returns to Rockefeller for Seven Last Words of Christ

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    The Vermeer String Quartet

    During Holy Week, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel will present a special performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, an annual musical production by the world-renowned Vermeer String Quartet, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 11. Eight distinguished theologians will accompany the quartet’s performance with their original meditations on the last words of Jesus Christ.

    Composed in 1786, The Seven Last Words of Christ was first presented on Good Friday in 1787 in Cadiz, Spain. Regardless of their musical knowledge or religious background, Haydn wanted the piece to be accessible to all listeners. “Each sonata, or movement, is expressed by purely instrumental music in such a way that even the most uninitiated listener will be moved to the very depths of his soul,” he wrote.

    Each one based on a final phrase of Jesus on the cross, the work’s seven main sections were prefaced by brief, spoken homilies by the Bishop of Cadiz. The annual presentation in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel revives this format, bringing together spiritual leaders from a diverse set of backgrounds and beliefs.

    This year’s performance will include homilies presented by the Rev. John Ortberg, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington; Peter Knobel, rabbi at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston; the Rev. Willie Cusic, manager of the Thelma Marshall Children’s Home in Gary, Ind., and recipient of the Martin Luther King Award for his work with inner-city street gangs; and Camilla Burns, director of the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, Chicago.

    Divinity School faculty members Martin Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus; Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor; David Tracy, the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Distinguished Service Professor; and the Rev. Alison Boden, Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, also will participate.

    One of the world’s finest ensembles, the Vermeer Quartet makes its home in the Chicago area. The quartet’s recording of Haydn’s music was nominated for a Grammy award in 1996. More information on the Vermeer Quartet may be found at their Web site, at http://www.vermeerqt.com.

    The performance of The Seven Last Words of Christ will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Admission is $10 for adults and free for children ages 17 and younger.

    Members of the Vermeer String Quartet will lead a discussion, beginning at 7 p.m. in the chapel. The performance will be recorded and rebroadcast on WFMT radio (98.7 FM) on Good Friday, April 13. For more information about group rates for parties of 10 or more, call (773) 702-7059. For other inquiries or to purchase advance tickets, call (773) 702-7300.