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Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God: A Sacred Musical Work

If you love new religious classical works, let me introduce you to Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God. What a moving and inspiring oratorio combining music and scripture to explore the life, death and resurrection of Jesus during the Passion Week! One of my new favorite artistic creations that I hope you will fall in love with as well.

Discovering Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God

So I had this gloriously surprising piece pop up in my Spotify suggestions. I was listening along to this beautiful music (on par with the quality of Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera) when I realized that the song was about Jesus! It was a gorgeous religious work, as powerful as Handel’s Messiah! And yet I had never heard it, or even heard of it, before! The music was compelling and spellbinding even if I hadn’t understood the language. But adding the biblical story of Jesus’ last days on earth gave me goosebumps!

Handel’s Messiah has always been a piece that greatly moves me, and I make room for it as part of my celebration of Christmas every year. In Rob Gardner’sLamb of God, I have found an equally reverential way to bring music into my reflections on Easter.

My Review

I’m not really sure how to describe this musical work. It artfully expands as you begin listening. The first song begins with a hush, the awakening of strings and the call of chimes. At first you may think it’s going to be a symphony piece. You can imagine the stage set with the orchestra and conductor. But then the music swells as if the lights turn on to reveal a full choir behind the instrumentalists. The equally gifted vocalists expand the piece and heighten the musical experience.

Then, as you settle into enjoying a full musical experience employing both instrumental and vocal talent, you are again surprised. Dramatic narration set over the backdrop of the symphony that continues. Hand in hand, the narrator and the orchestra weave together a story, a biblical story, a true story. You are introduced to characters, revealed to be amazing vocalists. The story switches into beautiful melodies, harmonies, and duets as the peoples’ lives interact. You’ve unknowingly been drawn into a sacred oratorio.

Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God amazes me. It is an incredibly artistic arrangement with colorful dimension. It pulls your emotions here, there, and everywhere as you enter the confusion, awe, joy, and pain of Jesus’ last days seen through the eyes of his closest friends. The work takes you through Jesus in Bethany and Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Garden and the Crucifixion. But then you also experience the Empty Tomb and Jesus’ appearance to his disciples. You enter into their realization of who Jesus is and how he has triumphed over sin and death.

And although the music is interesting and surprising, it doesn’t border on abstract or uncomfortable. The music is haunting and memorable because it resonates with our accepted notions of tonal quality and musicality. The well ordered, expansive piece moves me. It is both expressively creative while being musically logical. And so it draws me in entirely.

About the work

I was surprised to learn that Rob Gardner is Mormon. Or should I say surprised and not surprised.

My experience is that Mormons have a tradition of gifted and creative musicality. Think of The Tabernacle Choir (formerly the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) or The Piano Guys. So the rich profundity of the musical genius makes sense here.

I found no themes conflicting with my own Judeo-Christian beliefs reflected in the lyrics. The narrative portions of the work are taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible (which surprised me). So whatever your thoughts are on the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints or traditional Christianity, don’t let your theological questions hinder you from critically and thoughtfully exploring Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God.

In November 2009 Rob Garder reached out to his dream symphony, The London Symphony Orchestra, with the idea for Lamb of God. They agreed to work with him, and Gardner suddenly had a recording date of June 2010 for the work he hadn’t even started. He completed the entire oratorio a few weeks before he flew to London for the recording.

I own the 2021 Concert Film version of the piece. With no real costumes or acting, the film version shows the orchestra and the choir and the soloists with the cameras moving in, around, and through the group. The lighting and staging of this production is beyond what you would normally experience attending a concert. I highly reccommend purchasing the hard-to-find DVD copy or streaming Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God Concert Film on Google Play Movies or YouTube. On my Roku, I can watch it on BYU TV or Apple TV.

That being said, it’s still my dream to see Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God live! If you get the chance, don’t miss it. I know that the Minnesota Saints Chorale and Orchestra will be performing it at Bethel University, March 15 and 16, 2024.

Or you can find the recording as I originally discovered it on Spotify. The audio version is itself completely lovely, deep and inspiring.

However you listen or watch, why don’t you let me know what you thought in the comments? And if you love Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God as much as I do, be sure to share this post with your friends.

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