Jots & Tittles
New Bible Art Museum
Modern artists creating images inspired by the Bible will be featured at the newly reorganized Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum in Bethesda, Maryland. Katherine Janus Kahn, one of the artists whose work will be displayed, describes the collection as a “wild mix of stuff.”
The “stuff” ranges from wax and ceramic sculpture, “soul ladders” made from branches and mementos (inspired by Jacob’s ladder), to charcoal drawings, acrylic paintings and mixed-media works, including the Birth of Abraham II (above) by Marilyn Banner.
From February 3 to May 12, 2002, the work of eight contemporary artists will be shown in the exhibit Angels and Messengers. Phillip Ratner’s art is also on display in the museum. Contact the Ratner Museum, 10001 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 897–1518; www.ratnermuseum.com.
Musicians, churches, academics and preservationists throughout Europe are banding together to preserve organs that have fallen into disrepair. Centuries of neglect and a lack of funding have silenced more than 20,000 instruments, mostly in Eastern European churches.
When the European Organ Symposium (EOS) first sounded the alarm at a 1997 conference in Brussels, it was quickly realized that the neglect was a blessing in disguise. The organs, though unusable, had been left alone, and remained precious specimens of historical organ building, the height of musical and scientific innovation from the 17th through the 19th century. In the wealthier cities of western Europe, by contrast, churches had simply replaced their organs with the latest model as they needed repairs.
In 1999 EOS members and others initiated a three-year, $1.9 million project (called the Organ as a Symbol of the European Union: Safeguarding and Communicating a Common Heritage—ORSEV for short) to educate people about organs, compile a list of historic organs and identify the organs most in need of restoration.
The organ’s importance in music history has long been recognized, especially for its association with such renowned composers as Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Liszt and its stature as the most massive and technically complicated musical instrument. ORSEV goes even further. Its literature promotes the organ as an instrument of European thought, life and history:
“The vision of a European unity, which once contributed to the formation of the Europe we recognize today, takes its form in the organ as a musical instrument and bearer of culture…Crossing over local borders, the organ art created regional networks which contributed to economic prosperity and cultural development…The instrument was used in the life of the community…in times of mourning and rejoicing, in each church service and religious festival, for family celebrations, community ceremonies and political manifestations…The instrument bound together high and low, learned and unlearned in shared history, daily life, an unknown future, and in a vision of a harmonious era—an approaching heavenly world.”
The EOS’s initial rescue call has been gathering momentum and support. Its most recent meeting, last summer in Göteborg, Sweden, drew 125 attendees from 21 European countries. What began as an immediate call to repair broken-down organs has flowered into a project to preserve European history as communicated through western music’s most massive, fantastic instrument.
The Bible in the News
His name means “peace,” and he is universally recognized for his wisdom. Who better than Solomon to serve as a role model in these troubled times? And if we can’t have the biblical king, there are plenty of others displaying, or attempting to display, his wisdom in contemporary society.
Oftentimes it is a shared name that suggests a connection. Clemson University basketball guard Will Solomon displays his “wisdom,” according to the popular press, by scoring more than 40 points in a game.
Over and over again, school boards and legislatures are urged to exhibit the wisdom of Solomon as they deal with thorny questions of education, a topic close to the heart of the reputed author of the Book of Proverbs. Even weather forecasters can benefit from Solomon’s wisdom, the press claims, perhaps based on the traditional attribution of the weather forecast in Ecclesiastes, “When clouds are full, they empty rain” (11:3–4).
Most poignant, and most biblically relevant, are judicial issues, especially when they touch on children and family, the very topics on which King Solomon first applied his divinely bequeathed wisdom. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon identified a child’s true mother by suggesting that the two women claiming the child simply cut the babe in half. The woman who objected was, of course, the real mother. Who wouldn’t ask for Solomonic wisdom on the part of judges deciding cases involving the custody of a newborn whose mother died while giving birth, or parental rights between birth and adoptive parents, or surgical separation of conjoined twins, one of whom will surely die?
Well-known individuals (real or fictional) can also be singled out for exhibiting Solomon-like wisdom. So it is that “the Pope handled the first dispute of his [year 2000] Mideast trip the way Solomon would have,” by stopping at both Jordan River sites—one in Jordan, one in Israel—popularly associated with John the Baptist. President George W. Bush has been similarly praised since September 11. Even before the presidential election was decided, a prophetic Times-Picayune reporter wished the following to the new president, whoever he might be: ”the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the leadership of Moses, the faith of Abraham, and the loyalty of Ruth.”
New Bible Art Museum