by NZ CATHOLIC staff
Composer Cormac O’Duffy, who taught and studied in New Zealand during the 2000s, will conduct the premiere of his oratorio The Wedding Feast of the Lamb during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on September 24.
Mr O’Duffy taught in Tokoroa and Tauranga high schools while studying for his Master of Arts in Maori history and used to contribute occasional pieces for NZ Catholic newspaper on educational and religious matters.
Mr O’Duffy’s oratorio, which has been approved by the United States bishops and which received a special blessing from Pope Francis, tells the story, from Scripture, of marriage. It seeks to show how marriage is parallel to the relationship of Christ to the Church, a relationship that is finally consummated in heaven in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of Revelations 19 — hence the title of the oratorio.
Mr O’Duffy said he had the idea to write the work in 2008.
“The whole notion of marriage and family at the time were by no means controversial. Even when I finally completed my draft of the oratorio it was still uncontroversial, but now, with changes around the world, with the passing of the same sex “marriage” amendment in New Zealand in April 2013 and both the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage
and the Supreme Court decision in the US in 2015, an oratorio on biblical marriage now might be seen as counter-cultural and therefore perhaps controversial.”
That was not the intention, however, the idea being to celebrate traditional marriage in music — one man and one woman for life with the wonderful heritage of children.
Texts set include the Genesis story of the creation of man and woman, the words of Micah — “He has shown you O man what is good” — the description of the perfect wife of Proverbs 31 and the poem to love of St Paul in I Corinthians 13.
“We pray the performance will be a blessing for those who wish to celebrate the wonderful gift of marriage and we are honoured to perform it during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.”
The Wedding Feast of the Lamb will be sung by soloists from the Philadelphia opera and the joint choirs of the Philadelphia Catholic University of Villanova. They will be joined by the student orchestra from two charter schools from the city and a small group of student ballet dancers who will be trained by Natalia Charnova, a former
student of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.
The venue is the Church of St John the Evangelist.
Among those attending will be Bishop MacBride of Clogher and the former Bishop of Limerick, Bishop Donal Murray, together with the Irish delegation that will attend the World Meeting of Families. Mr O’Duffy said he hopes a New Zealand bishop or delegates at the meeting might be able to join them.
“I would love to be able to bring this work to New Zealand to be performed by New Zealand choral societies for the many people New Zealand folk of all religious traditions and denominations who would love to celebrate in music the God given gift of marriage and family,” Mr O’Duffy said. “For anyone Kiwi attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, we would be very pleased to welcome them to St John’s on September 24 at 8pm for the premiere, which will be free and open to all.”