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In tune with the Reformation By Wendy Healy Martin Luther’s famous affirmation from the Small


Catechism, “This is most certainly true,” has been set to music and will be performed by 27 Lutheran colleges and universities, including 24 of the 26 ELCA schools, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. James Ripley, director of instrumental music activities


at Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis., coordinated this inaugural partnership of the school bands to commission James M. Stephenson, a widely known Chicago composer, to write a piece for the Reformation. Throughout the fall and on Reformation Sunday, the schools’ instrumental groups will perform the piece, titled “this is most certainly true.” “James Stephenson is one of Amer ica’s truly


exceptional composers. His first works were largely holiday arrangements for orchestra, but in the past 10 years he has been recognized for several outstanding concerti and some large-scale works for both orchestra and band,” said Ripley, who had long sought an opportunity to work with the composer. Some of Stephenson’s works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony


In a first-of-its-kind partnership, 27 Lutheran schools commissioned an instrumental music piece to commemorate the Reformation. The schools will perform the piece throughout the fall.


Orchestra, U.S. Marine Band, and the Boston and New York Pops orchestras, Ripley said. Though the piece has no words, Stephenson clearly


makes Luther’s case through music. “After reading up on it, the two things that resonated with me were Luther’s struggle and the phrase ‘this is most certainly true,’ ” Stephenson said. “Musically, this revealed itself to me as one note—a B-f lat, which would represent ‘truth’ and would sustain throughout the piece.” Stephenson said he liked the challenge of conveying


Luther’s difficulty and dissonance. “I liked the idea of trying to do this technically, as a composer, so that it would challenge me artistically at the same time. This, I think, is always important—that the composer challenges him- or herself in an effort to create something that has depth.” The St. Olaf Band at St. Olaf College, Northfield,


Minn., happily participated in the commission. “When Jim Ripley approached us, it was a no-brainer,” said Timothy Mahr, conductor of the St. Olaf and Norseman bands. “Jim [Stephenson] is a highly respected composer and has been turning his attention more and more to


James Stephenson, a Chicago composer, wrote “this is most certainly true,” the Reformation-inspired instrumental arrangement for the Lutheran schools.


26 OCTOBER 2017


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