Kaleel Skeirik believes the time is right for a new look at some tough, timeless spiritual questions.
“We have challenges with gun legislation in this country, high school violence, bombings from within, and we’re attacking other countries,” he says. “Where are the lessons of Jesus? How do we apply them? What do they mean? Don’t we have to get back to basics as a society to make decisions?”
Haunted by these questions, the professor of music created a groundbreaking liturgical production designed to provide some answers. “Three Spiritual Reflections” examines ancient calls for social justice, places the questions in a contemporary setting and looks for answers in the teachings of Jesus. The piece, which premiered April 5 at Bellarmine Chapel, is divided into three parts. Reflection I: The Prophets is a simple, Appalachian-style folk song that’s lyrically a contemporary interpretation of Isaiah and Amos. Reflection II: The Armed Man is built around the shooting of Timothy Thomas in April 2001 and the resulting civil unrest in Cincinnati. Finally, in Reflection III: Those Who Came, the disciples pause during the Last Supper to explain how Christ’s teachings transformed them. Neither opera nor oratorio, the performance mixes music with a multimedia presentation of art created specifically for the production by Cincinnati artist Bruno Zabaglio.
“Certainly, this is path-breaking and new,” Skeirik says. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else similar or like this right now in the country.” Skeirik was the drama’s driving force and composed all of the music for the 50-minute piece, which was created with the assistance of a John Grissmer Performing Arts Grant. English department chair Tyrone Williams wrote the text for the first two reflections, while Nancy Bertaux of the economics and human resources department collaborated with Skeirik on the libretto for the third.
“I certainly think if this could have some meaning and prompt people to action just within the city of Cincinnati, that itself would be a tremendous breakthrough,” Williams says.