Christ Our Song


usic was once again employed as a heavenly vehicle to great success as the musicians of this year’s concert presented three reasons why Christ is our song. This year’s concert was presented as the middle part of chapter two in the "Power and Glory of God Through Music" concert series. In this concert was shown Christ our joy, our peace, and our hope, culminating in the most reassuring news we can have in this day and age: He's got the whole world in His hands!

The titles of the concert, put into verse:

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
O clap your hands,
singing Gloria in excelsis!
From the ground I look up, and can it be?
Yes, it is well with my soul.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing!
And when He shall come, giving us our new world,
we will sing the majesty and glory of Your name!
As we wait for this, we are comforted knowing
He's got the whole world in His hands.

Part 1 - Christ, Our Joy!

In the midst of a world that is tearing itself apart, we have music to bring us joy. Part one of the program starts with an energetic and delightful arrangement of "We Gather Together" for brass, organ and percussion.

Next, the choir joins in with the full orchestra singing Mack Wilberg's "Rejoice the Lord is King," a triumphant and powerful arrangement. This is followed by the original and exciting setting of Psalms 47 by John Rutter. Finally, the section ends with the first movement from the venerable classic, "Gloria" by Vivaldi.

Part 2 - Christ, Our Peace

The next section of the program begins with the sublime and gentle "The Ground" by Ola Gjeilo. Featuring string quartet instrumentation, the piece blends modern writing techniques with old school style that paints a wonderful picture of peace. From there, we move to Dan Forrests' "And Can It Be?" which takes deeply moving words from Charles Wesley and combines them with Forrest's masterful music composition into a stirring, moving piece that touches the soul.

The section ends with the classic hymn "It Is Well With My Soul," set in arrangement by world renowned Mack Wilberg. Staying true to the hymn, Wilberg's arrangement adds power to the already powerful words, culminating in a massive scale of grandeur that juxtaposes expertly with the peace sung about in the music.

Part 3 - Christ, Our Hope

Oh, who are we, that You are mindful of us, O Lord? The answer is simple: we are His children. And like a child who waits for their father to take them home, we sing "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" as an anthem to the soon coming of our Savior. This is echoed by the next piece, "When He Shall Come" by Almeada Pearce.

We then get an orchestral only musical painting in "Our New World" by Geoff Knorr, of the emotions that might be felt by those who, when arriving home at the second coming, see their new world. It is a picture of stirring hope and excitement. This is followed closely by "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name" by Tom Fettke. A classic choral anthem, here boosted by orchestra, it builds to a majestic conclusion, followed by a prayerful coda.

The program ends with Mack Wilberg's arrangement of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands." In our present day and age, this could be no more fitting of a piece when conveying the hope that Christ brings us. It also is a grand piece to end on, pulling out all the stops with full choir, full orchestra, wide open organ, and handbells.

About the Program

The music program presented February 23 was part 2 in the second chapter of the "Power and Glory of God Through Music" concert series. In 2018, this new chapter began with the concert "Rejoice in Christ!" and continued here with "Christ Our Song." Together with several other churches in the area, we brought to our audience a grand program of sacred, uplifting, and awe-inspiring music featuring a combined mass choir, orchestra, hand bells, and organ.

We are constantly bombarded with news of bad things happening; on the local level, on the national level, on the global level. Music offers a break from that. Specifically, this music program exists for two reasons: to return a musical offering to the Lord, and to provide a brief respite from the constant bombardment of bad things in the world around us.

It may be noticed that there are no holidays near the program date. This is by design. The goal is to provide a musical oasis, no matter how brief, without the emotional ties to a holiday or event. The program is altruistic in nature; it exists because music and musical opportunities are good as well as fun.

The Director

William Shortal

Bill served the First United Methodist Church of Orlando for 23 years as Director of Music and Worship Arts. There he administered a program of 14 ensembles and annually directed two concerts with full orchestra. Prior to Orlando, Bill held similar positions with churches in Fort Myers, FL; Wood River, IL; and Sioux Falls, SD. He holds degrees from Millikin University (BME) and the University of Illinois (MM). Previously, Bill served The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts as national president and vice-president, as well as president of the Florida chapter.

The Music

Mack Wilberg

Mack Wilberg is a composer, arranger, conductor, choral clinician and the current music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. His compositions and arrangements are performed and recorded by choral organizations throughout the world. In addition to the many compositions he has written for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, his works have been performed by such artists as Renée Fleming, Frederica von Stade, Bryn Terfel, the King’s Singers, narrators Walter Cronkite and Claire Bloom.

Works Performed

  • Arise, O God, and Shine
  • It Is Well with My Soul
  • He's Got the Whole World in his hands
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

John Rutter

John Rutter is a conductor, record producer, and prolific composer of primarily choral works. Some of his best known and internationally acclaimed works include "Gloria", "Requiem", and "Magnificat". In 1981, Rutter founded his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, which he conducts and with which he has made many recordings of sacred choral repertoire (including his own works), particularly under his own label Collegium Records. He resides at Duxford in Cambridgeshire and frequently conducts many choirs and orchestras around the world.

Works Performed

  • O Clap Your Hands

Dan Forrest

Dan Forrest has been described as having "an undoubted gift for writing beautiful music….that is truly magical" (NY Concert Review), with works hailed as "magnificent, very cleverly constructed sound sculpture" (Classical Voice), and “superb writing…full of spine-tingling moments” (Salt Lake Tribune). In the last decade, Dan’s music has become well established in the repertoire of choirs in the U.S. and abroad. Dan’s music has received dozens of awards and distinctions, with premieres in major venues around the world. Dan is active as a composer, educator, and pianist.

Works Performed

  • And Can It Be?

Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque musical composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher, and priest. Born in Venice, the capital of the Venetian Republic, he is regarded as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He composed many instrumental concertos, for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as the Four Seasons.

Works Performed

  • Gloria

Kevin Kaska

Kevin Kaska is an American composer, arranger, record producer, and conductor. Mr. Kaska's music has been performed all over the world by major orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and with John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra, to name a few. His piece presented here, "We Gather Together," is an original original arrangement of a classic hymn that unites brass, organ and percussion in powerful fashion.

Works Performed

  • We Gather Together

Tom Fettke

Tom Fettke is a composer, arranger and producer of music and recordings for the church and school. His published works and recordings number in the hundreds. His classic choral work THE MAJESTY AND GLORY OF YOUR NAME is sung by thousands of church and school choirs around the world. For over 50 years, the development of relevant, practical and dynamic choral music has been his passion and his profession.

Works Performed

  • The Majesty and Glory of Your Name



Geoff Knorr

Geoff Knorr is an award-winning composer of music for media and the concert hall. His concert music has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Symphony Orchestra, Wheaton College Symphony, and Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. Geoff also teaches an introductory course in sound and music for video games at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Geoff is a graduate of the Peabody Institute, having received a BM and MM in Music Composition and BM in Recording Arts and Sciences.

Works Performed

  • Our New World

Ola Gjeilo

Ola Gjeilo is one of the most frequently performed composers in the choral world. An accomplished pianist, improvisations over his own published choral pieces have become a trademark of his collaborations. Although Norwegian by birth, it is perhaps Ola’s adopted country of America that has influenced the composer’s distinctive soundworld the most, evolving a style that is often described as cinematic and evocative, with a lush, harmonious sound.

Works Performed

  • The Ground

The Musicians

The Choir - An Exciting Partnership

The choir this year is composed of members from the Markham Woods Seventh-day Adventist church in Longwood, First Methodist Church of Orlando, Spring Meadows Seventh-day Adventist church, Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church Choir, members of the Men of Markham Woods men's chorus, the vocal octet Restoration, several out of state choir performers, and numerous friends from the Orlando community and surrounding areas.

The concert is a unique and exciting opportunity to blend the choral talents of many congregations, and the result is anticipated to produce amazing experiences for both choir singers and audiences alike.

The Instrumentalists - An Incredible Experience

The concert this year provides a once-off exciting experience for the instrumentalists. Often an orchestra is composed of an established group. Here we have the blending of several smaller groups, including members of the Orlando Philharmonic, the Markham Woods Brass, Sabbath Strings, and students from Forest Lake Academy, Lake Highland Academy, and numerous friends from the Orlando community and surrounding areas.

Together with full pipe organ and handbells, the instruments for this years concert promise to deliver a spectacular experience for performers and audience alike.