What is the most familiar verse in the Holy Bible?
What is your favorite Bible verse?
Both are loaded questions, I know. And every Christian will have a different answer.
We all know the shortest verse in the Bible.
Jesus wept. (John 11:35)
For the most familiar and favorite, many will answer with a verse from this Sunday’s appointed Gospel reading:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Indeed, this is one of the first verses I remember memorizing. After all, I am a Vacation Bible School graduate, over many years, you know.
Some will say that John 3:16 is the central theme of the Christian message. Though impossible to reduce Christianity to one statement or theme, John 3:16 arguably comes close.
Innumerable choral settings of this beloved text have been composed throughout the centuries. Our parish choral library includes four, including a choral movement from John Stainer’s (1840-1901) oratorio The Crucifixion, which many will consider the definitive choral setting.
We also own three very fine contemporary settings by Bob Chilcott, Joel Martinson, and Craig Phillips. This Sunday our Parish Choir will sing Bob Chilcott’s setting, which is quite lush and is scored for divisi choir and soprano soloist.
(Divisi indicates multiple independent parts with in the regular four-part choir divisions.)
Lush, tight harmonies are hallmarks of Bob Chilcott’s compositional style. A boy chorister and a university student in the famed Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Chilcott sang from 1985-97 in the King’s Singers, a professional ensemble formed in 1968 by six former King’s College choral scholars.
He has written for adult and children’s choirs and has composed all manner of works from jazz masses to cantatas. He has also written large-scale works, a Requiem and a setting of the St. John Passion. A past conductor of both the BBC Singers and the choir of the Royal College of Music in London, he is presently the conductor of the University of Birmingham (UK) Singers.
Listen to the John Stainer setting of “God so loved the world,” sung by the Choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, here.
Listen to Bob Chilcott’s setting of “God so loved the world,” sung by the Mississippi College Singers, here.
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