An ambitious theatrical experiment, Phos Hilaron premiered at the Lansing Lee Conference in Hendersonville, NC at Kanuga Conferences on November 15, 2008. Additional performances were staged at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta on December 12 & 13, 2008, and at Epworth-by-the-Sea’s January Adventure in St. Simons Island, GA on January 17, 2009.
Phos Hilaron draws upon the seeds of the Christian faith, catapulting them into our present century. When 2,000 years ago, catacomb habitants dared to “draw God,” they were moved to render beauty’s relationship with the divine. These early faithful had to paint, and they drew forms that burned within, the passion undeniable.
Here is an excerpt from the printed program:
Phos Hilaron is about seeing God in great art, drawing upon existential fire which compels humankind’s most talented to create. Some of its subject matter might be considered profane, yet the expressive spark that moves the artist toward transcendence honors God within. Consider a thread—one might call it an arc—stretching from those initial impulses thousands of years ago to render the divine, connecting to us what may also be found in masterpieces of the twentieth century. Phos Hilaron celebrates Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Mario Sironi and other contemporaries because their line work harkens to that magnificently pure illustration adorning catacomb walls along the Appian Way.
We live in a frenetic time, bombarded by stimuli. Phos Hilaron employs many of the same media. Phos Hilaron is video, photography, special effects, computer graphics, pre-recorded music, sounds of nature, sounds of blended voices, perhaps our own conscience in the form of a single narrator, and commentary from two of the greatest theological minds on our planet.
It was from those two individuals—John Dominic Crossan and Marcus J. Borg—whence Phos Hilaron sprang. Their idea that current society need readdress Christmas through the realities of the first century is ultimately about the light. We must see the light through the cobwebs of tradition and our own preconceived notions. Jesus calls upon us to embrace the Kingdom of God, and it is through Advent that we quietly prepare, through Christmastide that we rejoice and through Epiphany that we see.
Bathe in the light. Surrender to the profound message of hope for creation. Allow the aspects of phos (light) and hilaron (gladness) to overtake you.
Producer/Director Randall B. Robertson brought an array of talent to Phos Hilaron, a performance art piece inspired by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s book The First Christmas. ASCAP award-winning choral director Jerry Ulrich conducted the 32-voice Georgia Tech Chamber Choir for Phos Hilaron. Video artist Matt Gilbert complemented Tech’s choral expression and the music of Free Planet Radio in performance with CGI composite video. Messrs. Crossan and Borg personally participated in the production, offering live real-time commentary with their message of Christ’s emerging light in the darkness.
Dr. Ulrich is a former Fulbright Professor at the Royal Scottish Academy, and has appeared at Lincoln Center and over a dozen times at Carnegie Hall. Georgia Tech MS-candidate Matt Gilbert is a graduate of California’s Art Center College of Design and is part of Railroad Earth, an artist collective in Atlanta. Free Planet Radio’s musicians Chris Rosser and River Guerguerian are teachers and academicians who have shared the stage with John Mayer, the Paul Winter Consort, the BBC Orchestra, and collaborated with Tan Dun and avant-garde composer John Cage. Randall B. Robertson has created other spiritual multimedia in performance with Newbery award-winning writer Madeleine L’Engle.
Mr. Robertson comments, “It is clear that Episcopal practices must evolve in the present century. I am committed to applying the vibrancy of art, imagination and poetry – ancient and modern – toward contemporary spiritual expression. Phos Hilaron translates from the ancient Greek as ‘Gladdening Light’ and marries the theology of Borg and Crossan beautifully.”
Phos Hilaron premiered at the Lansing Lee Conference in Hendersonville, NC at Kanuga Conferences on November 15, 2008. Additional performances were staged at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta on December 12 & 13, 2008, and at Epworth-by-the-Sea’s January Adventure in St. Simons Island, GA on January 17, 2009.