The University of Chicago News Office
March 31, 2006 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

From Rainbow/PUSH to Billy Graham Center, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel presents an ecumenical Seven Last Words of Christ

    the vermeer quartet
The Vermeer Quartet

The majesty of live music and the wonder of spoken word will combine in a stirring performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ. The piece will be presented at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave., on the University of Chicago campus, and includes performances by the internationally renowned Vermeer String Quartet and original meditations by eight scholars from across the Christian spectrum. One of this year’s meditations is particularly poignant as Richard Phelps, an ex-convict turned college student and member of Life Center Church of God in Christ on the South Side, reflects upon the words of Christ, spoken to the thief on the cross, “Surely, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Composed in 1786, The Seven Last Words of Christ was first presented on Good Friday in 1787 in Cadiz, Spain. The work’s seven main sections, each based upon one of Jesus’ final phrases, were prefaced by brief, spoken homilies by the Bishop of Cadiz.

The chapel’s Holy Week presentation will revive this unique format, bringing together in this one piece a diverse group of respected speakers. In addition to Phelps, the performance includes homilies presented by the Rev. Willie Barrow, co-director of Rainbow-PUSH Coalition; the Rev. Lon Allison of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center; Peter Steinfels, professor at Fordham University and New York Times religion columnist; Martin Marty, The Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the University of Chicago Divinity School; Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor in the University of Chicago Divinity School; James Langford, professor at University of Notre Dame; and the Rev. Alison Boden, Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

The Vermeer Quartet makes its home in the Chicago area, where it annually presents The Seven Last Words of Christ. The ensemble’s recording of this work was nominated for a Grammy award in 1996. More information on the Vermeer Quartet can be found at their Web site:

Beyond the music, a unique vitality is given to each performance of The Seven Last Words of Christ as each of the presenters brings his or her unique reflections upon the final words of Christ on the cross. Haydn wanted the piece to be accessible to all, regardless of one’s musical or religious background. He wrote: “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.”

Admission for adults is $10 and tickets are available at the door or in advance through the Chapel office. The performance is free for youth 17 and under. A pre-performance discussion with members of the Vermeer Quartet will begin at 7 p.m. in the chapel. The performance will be broadcast on WFMT radio (98.7 FM) on Good Friday, April 14 at 1 p.m. and via satellite across the country during Holy Week over the WFMT radio network. For further information, call (773) 702-7059.
Last modified at 09:31 AM CST on Friday, March 31, 2006.

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