Front Row Reviewers

Mar 29, 2024 | Family Friendly

Aspen Chorale Brings New Life to Rob Garder’s Lamb of God

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Eliza Een

Aspen Chorale and Orchestra performed the beloved oratorio The Lamb of God by Rob Gardner on March 9th at the Covey Center in Provo, Utah. The Lamb of God is an Easter performance that focuses on Jesus Christ and several of his disciples in several moments of his ministry through his atonement and resurrection. This oratorio is performed with a full symphonic orchestra, choir, and soloists. Instead of a soloist portraying the voice of Christ, narration and a solo cello provide a soft yet powerful representation of the Savior’s words.

My first encounter with The Lamb of God was as a teenager when a local youth symphony and chorus chose to perform it for its spring concert in 2011. Since then I’ve personally performed in it five times and have been grateful to find local productions to watch every year in Utah during the Easter season. 

Gardner’s orchestration uses several motifs throughout that add extra layers of meaning and unite the soloists, choir, and orchestra. The Aspen Chorale and Orchestra is directed and conducted by Marie Davis, whose enthusiasm is matched by her competence in uniting the performers throughout the oratorio. 

The narrators Alayna Een and Jonathan Anderson framed the stage, taking turns reading through scriptural accounts and setting the scene for the pieces. Their emotion and intention carried the story throughout and was a highlight of the performance, and I especially enjoyed how Alayna Een spoke as if the audience was hearing the story for the first time.  

The cello solos throughout are performed by Jonathan Hanson, who showcased his skill and passion in each echoing refrain, adding plaintive emotion throughout the whole oratorio but especially in “Gethsemane.” 

Like his character’s namesake, McKay Cummings (Peter), is a rock. His powerful tenor cut to the heart of his solo songs and emphasized the central theme when the soloists sang together with complementary harmonies. I especially enjoyed Cummings’ performance of “I Cannot Watch Them,” which depicts Peter’s anguish contemplating Jesus in his final hours and the inner turmoil of having denied knowing Christ. 

Each of the women disciples are given a chance to shine throughout the oratorio. Kate Hansen (Mary, mother of Jesus), has the difficult job of following the crucifixion of the Savior with “Here is Hope” and was truly able to lift the tone of the performance and restore hope to the audience. The position of this song is a poignant demonstration of Mary’s faith in the crucial moments before the resurrection. 

Mary Magdalene (Emma Bursell)’s contemplation after the resurrection is captured in a glorious performance of one of my favorite songs from the production, “Gloria,” and the accompanying choir and orchestra take this song to the next level.  

Mary (Mackenzie Tolk Houmand) and Martha of Bethany (Anne Jensen) are the other two lead female vocalists. Jensen’s beautiful voice marries with the intention she puts behind her words, which is especially noticeable in “Make Me Whole.” This song is later reprised by Thomas (Pierce Walker). I loved how in Walker’s performance and Gardner’s script there was an emphasis on Thomas’s focus on physical acts and manifestations of Christ. This focus built into his moment of testimony “until my hands have felt his hands, I will not know, nor yet believe.” Although not the typical trio of apostles, Gardner’s pairing of Peter, John, and Thomas brings richness to the story, and Cummings, Walker, and Kimball Demars (John) portray these very different people well and meshed together admirably in “Lord, Is It I?”

With such a dramatic story, establishing the antagonists and seeing the soloists play off of each other is fascinating and adds depth to the performance. The performances of soloists Boston Anglesley (Judas), Oscar Safsten (Pilate), Braden Johnston (False Witness), Abraham Geigle (Accuser), Angie Whiting (Maid), and Elizabeth Reynolds (Damsel) help highlight the conflicts and bring balance to the show and the contrast of their voice types and vocal styles enriches the performance.  

The performance of the orchestra provided a strong foundation for the entire production and, alongside the choir, made the whole thing possible. As an early opening to the Easter season, this performance was very moving. It wasn’t easy to count dry eyes among the audience. I look forward to future performances from the Aspen Chorale and Orchestra as they continue to use the power of music to touch the hearts and souls of their audience. 

A review by Front Row Reviewers
Aspen Chorale Presents: The Lamb of God by Rob Gardner
425 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601
March 9, 2024, 1 PM, 4 PM, 7:30 PM 
Tickets: $10–25, 
Contact: (801) 852-7007
Lamb of God facebook event 
Aspen Chorale website 

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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