Standard for Christian movies needs improvement

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Often, after seeing a Christian film, there’s one comment that reoccurs in post-movie discussions: “That was a great movie,” someone says, “… for a Christian movie.”

That last little phrase irks me. Not necessarily because it’s inaccurate – (it’s often very accurate, and sometimes I’m the one saying it) – but because of what it implies.

The phrase implies that Christian movies can be judged by a different standard than most films.

Initially, this might seem like a good thing. Christian films should be held to a different standard than other films, since we are called by God to do everything we do in order to serve and please God, rather than people. And so, in this sense, the remark that a movie is a good Christian movie is a compliment.

Unfortunately, there’s a difference between a movie that is “a good Christian movie” and one that is “good, for a Christian movie.”

These two very similar phrases have two very different implications.

While the first phrase implies the movie is good and also Christian, the second phrase carries a more demeaning implication. “It was good, for a Christian movie” implies the same kind of backhanded compliment that could be found in other sentences that use the same grammatic structure.

Saying that a female athlete is good, “for a female athlete”, carries the unspoken implication that when compared with all athletes – male and female – she is no longer good enough.

Similarly, saying that a Christian film is good compared to Christian films, implies that it’s not worthy of comparison with mainstream films.

It suggests that Christian filmmakers produce a lower quality of work than main-stream filmmakers.

Even more unfortunate, this suggestion is typically accurate.

Christian films frequently fall short of the quality standards of mainstream fi lms.

This is partially due to the budget limitations of smaller Christian indie films compared to Hollywood-backed film budgets. But it is also partially due to failures of plot and storytelling.

It is easy for Christian films to oversimplify their storylines – writing fables, or apologetic arguments in the disguise of stories. And while sermons and fables are generally good things, the movie theatre is not usually the most effective venue for them.

Many of these films try to wrap up their plots into a pretty little bow in the two hour time span of the film, by telling the story of a huge problem that was easily cured by God.

Take the 2015 film “90 Minutes in Heaven,” for example. The film tells the story of Don Piper – played by Hayden Christensen of Star Wars prequels fame, who dies in an accident, goes to heaven, then comes back to life and endures a grueling physical recovery process while battling depression.

Yet near the end of the fi lm, his entire struggle with de-pression is cured by a single inspirational conversation with a Christian friend, and in the closing scene he gives an inspirational speech, urg-ing his fellow Christians to believe that God really does answer prayer.

Although this particular film is based on a true story, this basic plotline is perhaps one of the most common of all Christian movie plotlines. Despite the detailed character work of Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth, the film lacks the level of artistry required to acknowledge all of the conflicting aspects of physical and psychological recovery.

And like many Christian movie endings – the physical healing and cure for the character’s depression depicted in the film offers Christian moviegoers a reminder of the Christian hope, but potentially turns away others.

When most people attend a movie theatre, they don’t go in order to learn moral lessons, they go to be entertained and perhaps to experience empathy with the characters on the screen – think of your friends who talk about their favorite films being so good they cried, for example.

Moviegoers know that they live in a messed up sinful world, and trying to tell stories to them that promise conversion to Christianity as the wonder drug for all their problems won’t change their minds.

These filmmakers mean well, but their films are unlikely to be viewed or thought highly of by audiences other than converted Christians.

Instead, Christian films should tell high-quality stories that can only be told through film.

Telling an honest, gripping, detailed and nuanced story is an incredibly powerful thing but in order to achieve this we need to tell not just the success stories, but the failures.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with telling stories such as “90 Minutes in Heaven,” we just need to make sure that we’re also telling the stories of those who’s prayers do seem to go unanswered.

Telling both of these kinds of stories is important for three reasons:

1). It allows Christians to see a Christian world-view applied in a context that they can relate to, no matter if they’re on the mountain top in their lives, or going through a valley of sin and suffering with no end in sight.

2). It shows the rest of the world that Christians are relatable human beings, by acknowledging that the answers to life’s struggles are not easy for Christians.

3). Most importantly, it glorifies God by building respect for Christian film-making in non-Christian and mainstream circles.

If we can tell nuanced stories that truly acknowledge the difficulties of life, we show the world we can do better than, “good, for a Christian movie.”

We can make good Christian films.

Graphic design student present senior art show

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Spring is a busy time of year in the OBU art building, as many senior students present their final art show.

This month senior graphic design major Matthew Giudice II’s art show is on display in the building’s gallery April 13-25.

Initially, many of the works in the show might seem simplistic, however, many of the pieces in the show carry a magnetism hidden in them that draws and keeps the viewer’s attention.

According to Giudice II’s artist statement, “I am always striving to portray all things through my lens in their most positive light. […] I use my camera as a means to learn about the world and the people around me.”

These little insightful hints at the nature of subjects, gives Giudice’s work its compelling depth.

The show poses a clear contrast with the other shows that have been recently displayed in the building, with its darker, bolder color scheme and emphasis on photographic work.

Giudice II has been a photography enthusiast long before his time at OBU. According to Giudice, “I have always had an interest in photography. Any family trips we took I always brought a camera and made sure I took plenty of photos.”

Across from his artist’s statement, a collection of nature photography is shown.

This collection includes two works – “Sunflower” and “Leaf” – close-ups of simple golden plant life, they are brought out from their backdrop through camera focus, leaving the green nature that surrounds each work’s subject in a haze of green, brown and pale blue-grey.

In the next room, however, Giudice’s artwork truly comes into its own. Here his photography showcases his use of negative space.

The silhouette work of “DNA Picasso” on one side presents the shadowy figure of a person against a white backdrop, and in the other neighboring image by the same title, a similar figure can be seen – however, this greyscale image contrasts the light striking the subjects face with surrounding darkness.

Nearby, Giudice’s “Luke Garner” photography captures the movement of a motorcycle rider in black and white panning photography.

The streaked back-ground of the image permeates the sense of movement in the photo.

While these works feature the contrast of black against white, other works play with the contrast of color – especially red-oranges – against darkness.

“Luke Garner Silhouette” places the black outline of a motorcycle rider against a blazing orange sky.

This darkness that permeates much of the artwork, draws the eye instantly to a few sparse features that leap outward from the plainness of the backgrounds.

In “Strange” spirals of brilliant golden light show against a black background, while “Colorado Sunset” displays a lowering sun outlining a few sparse colds in liquid gold as orange light floods over grey hills.

Sprinkled amidst these works are several sports action photos, shot with a skill that suggests his preference for sports.

“My main focus is in flash photography and sports,” reads his artist statement.

Several of these sports images are also shot as brilliant full-color figures against a black backdrop, returning the pattern of negative space visible throughout the show. Yet while the display emphasizes Giudice’s digital photography work, it does not limit itself solely to photography. An example of his graphic design work can be seen in a packaging mock-up titled “Aunt Ginger.”

Nearby on a table in the center of the gallery, examples of Giudice’s screen printing skills can be seen beneath several samples of his film photography.

On another wall, a painted portrait can be seen, that captures with loving detail “Mr. G” in the form of oil on canvas.

Throughout his senior show, Giudice’s sparse and selective use of color controls the viewer’s focus, and creates a sense of energy and vibrancy that engages viewers imagination.

In his artist statement he wrote, “I hope you enjoyed it and feel inspired.”

This show is certainly one that viewers will leave full of energy and perhaps a little inspiration.

OBU ‘Three Sisters’ production debuts April 25

By Olivianna Calmes, Assistant Arts Editor

The OBU theatre department finishes their 2019 season “Awakened by a Dream” with “Three Sisters,” written by Chekhov and translated by Laurence Senelick. Dr. David Coley has a Ph.D. in Theater and taught at St. Greg’s for 12 years in the theatre department and will be guest directing the show.

Coley said that this play is Chekhov’s greatest achievement.

“It represents the Russian dramatist at his most insightful, his most critical, and his most wryly comical,” he said. “His depiction of a society that teeters on the verge of change while fighting it with every step is a prescient vision that speaks volumes today.”

The story follows the sisters and their dream of moving back to the big city of Moscow. They encounter hard work, heartbreak and family crises. The play will explore how they learn from the struggles that they are presented with and how they deal with family issues.

When asked whether the play was humorous or comedic, Dr. David Coley said that he was torn.

“It’s difficult to say,” Coley said. “Most people when they watch or read Chekhov plays [see them as] very serious and dramatic and tragic sometimes, but he thought they were all comedies. He has a very dark, strange sense of humor. And so that’s something we are going to try to balance in the show.”

Coley said the play is going to be dramatic, and hopes it portrays the same strange levity that Checkhov saw.

“You know, whereas we might see some of these characters is very tragic,” Coley said. “He saw them as kind of ridiculous so we’re, we’re having to kind of try and find that that balance there.”

Coley said he has always been drawn to stories about people who are victims of history and culture that takes them down an unknown direction.

“[Three Sisters] is similar to that because it’s this family that try they might, can’t escape [and] the world is changing around them,” he said. “They can’t get outside that system that are going to be carried along with it like a river.”

The three sisters, Irina, Masha, and Olga will be played by freshman Theatre major Anna Smolen, senior Theatre major Anna Tyler, and sophomore Theatre and Digital Media Arts major Kimberlie McCutchen. Freshman communications major Noble Adams-Nabors is playing the role of Ferapont and anxiously anticipating the show.

“I’m really excited to see how the audience reacts to this play,” he said. “It’s not the typical kind of story and I’m interested to see what other people make of it.”

The showtimes are April 25 and 26 at 7:30 and April 28 at 2:30pm in the Sarkeys Black Box. To purchase tickets, visit okbu.edu/theatre, visit Sar-keys building box office Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4pm or call (405)-585-4350.

Orchestra celebrates Hansford’s final concert before retiring

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

The OBU Division of Music will soon bid farewell to one of its longest-serving individuals.

Dr. Jim Hansford has already been retired from his role as of Burton H. Patterson Professor of Music for quite some time. However, this spring the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra’s spring concert marked Hansford’s retirement from his role as the orchestra’s director and conductor – a role he has filled since the group began 20 years ago.

“We have been so lucky to have Dr. Hansford here at OBU,” junior music education major and flutist and piccoloist Lauren Rivers said. “He truly cared for each and every member in the orchestra and the fine arts program would not be the same if it wasn’t for all of the years and wisdom he put into this program.”

Other students agree.

“Dr. Hansford is a dedicated musician and has given so much time to help this orchestra, I say this because he deserves to be recognized as this is his last concert,” freshman worship studies and women’s ministry major and second violinist Alethea,” Jade Coffey said.

Hanford passion for music has fueled his long career as a music educator and conductor.

“Just seeing Dr. Hansford conduct, it is evident that he loved music and loves being a director,” Coffey said. “His passion for music just reminded me that no matter the age always do what you love.”

This same passion for music shows in his enthusiasm during rehearsals.

“He would get so excited when a piece came together, as we have so many instruments that it is very easy for one little thing to go wrong,” Coffey said. “He just gets so excited for the little victories.”

All of the little victories the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra makes helps the students in the orchestra develop artistically.

“I have enjoyed seeing the growth of the orchestra,” Rivers said. “Throughout my time in the orchestra, we have made tremendous progress throughout the music we have played.”

Hansford encourages the students to take on difficult musical tasks.

“During the time I’ve been in the orchestra, Dr. Hansford always challenged the orchestra,” Rivers said. “This last year, he had me playing the piccolo part which has been extremely challenging. After a lot of hard work, I have learned to enjoy this instrument and I owe it all to Dr. Hansford.”

The OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra is a joint musical effort of OBU students, faculty and community members that was founded by Hansford. The ensemble comes together in weekly rehearsals to prepare for its performances.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we only meet once a week which isn’t always enough time to put together an entire concert,” Rivers said.

Like many OBU music ensembles, handling these scheduling difficulties in one of the largest challenges the group faces, especially during busy parts of the spring semester.

“Some challenges for be-ing in the orchestra this year was mainly trying to juggle the degree, homework, study sessions, and practicing all in a week or even on days or rehearsal,” Coffey said. “Yet Dr. Hansford was very understanding of life getting in the way but made sure we kept up the amazing standard that the orchestra has.”

This spring, as it bids its director and founder goodbye, the orchestra prepared for its spring concert 7:30 p.m., April 26, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. The concert featured many pieces that hold a special place in Hansford’s heart.

“I decided to include several of my favorite musical works for this final concert with the orchestra,” Hansford said in a press release April 16. “Upon reflecting on my 46 years as a band director, I have programmed a couple of my favorite wind band works that have been transcribed for orchestra.”

The works performed included a variety of musical styles, ranging from John Barry’s “Somewhere in Time,” to Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” to Alfred Reed’s “Russian Christmas Music.”

“This year has gone by so fast, we have performed and are preparing to perform so many amazing pieces,” Coffey said. “They all emphasize different instruments and are completely different.”

After the performance, a reception was held to celebrate Hansford full retirement from the OBU faculty and staff, and students also planned a surprise for their director.

“The orchestra has planned on having all the members sign a framed picture of the orchestra,” Rivers said. “Many members have also put together money for a gift card.”

 

D’Emilio to complete debut year as full-time faculty

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Newly hired as a full-time assistant professor of music at Oklahoma Baptist University, Kelsey D’Emilio has set up her office to be nearly as soothingly cheerful as she is. Visitors and students stepping into the office are greeted by the sight of soft pastel paintings, a large pastel floral painting on the wall, Victorian-esque chairs and a table lamp surrounded by a shade of little teardrop-shaped prisms.

“She has the greatest office in Raley, I think,” professor of music and dean of the Warren M Angell college of fine arts, Dr. Christopher Mathews said. “It’s like out of a magazine or something, you know, it’s beautiful.”

The close of the spring 2019 semester marks the conclusion of D’Emilio’s first year as a full-time faculty member at OBU, although she has served as an adjunct professor at OBU, prior to joining full-time for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Yet originally teaching was not originally something she expected for her career.

“I never really thought of teaching as something that I’d want, or thought I knew how to do, I guess,” she said. “Even though my masters is in pedagogy and performance, I was really performance driven the whole time. So, it was a new adventure for me – to do that professionally.”

After starting as an adjunct, at OBU, she found that she enjoyed teaching at the college level. “The first day, I was sitting there, and I came home, and I absolutely fell in love with this,” D’Emilio said. “This is the greatest job in the world.”

The journey that led her to the role of collegiate assistant professorship was a winding one, although she knew she loved music from a very young age.

“I always was like a kid, [who] sang and hummed before I spoke, like as a kid. So I [always] was attracted to music,” she said.

However, at first, she was self-conscious about her voice.

“I didn’t sound like any of the kids in choir at church,” she said. “And so, I didn’t ever sing out in church choir – because I sounded different.”

It was only a little while later, that she began to confidently embrace her singing ability.

“I was in the car with my parents. And they put on an album that was, had an opera singer on it, but singing something, not from an opera, but like she was singing operatically,” D’Emilio said. “And I [thought], ‘Well, I can do that.’ I was about 10, and my parents said ‘Okay, sure.’ Then I started singing like myself, as opposed to making my voice sound differently like the other kids sing in choir.”

D’Emilio then started taking voice lessons.

“Finally, when I decided to not compare myself or change myself, I was able to pursue the gift that God gave me,” she said.

Now, as a voice instructor and music professor, she helps students embrace their own natural voices.

“As humans, it’s really easy to compare ourselves,” D’Emilio said. “And then that’s how we feel about ourselves – it’s just the comparison, which is not ideal for something.”

These kinds of comparisons can give music students inaccurate ideas as to what their singing should sound like.

“It can be demotivating,” she said.“It can give us false expectations, what our voice should be able to do,” D’Emilio said. “God made each one of us uniquely. And what we need to do is bring out who He made.”

She encourages students to consider their voice as part of being fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Our voice is a gift from God, and to try to alter it, or change it or compare his gift to another gift that he’s given,” D’Emilio said. “It’s just not something that I encourage them to do.”

For D’Emilio, that incident singing along with an operatic singer in the car as a child helped her begin to realize her vocal potential. It also helped spark a love of opera.

“It’s just a really exciting and powerful medium of art that I feel I really just connected with,” she said. “It’s the whole experience.”

Like other art forms, opera centers around the human experience.

“[Opera is] human stories. written and performed by humans,” she said. “It just happens sometimes to be in another language; it happens to sometimes be in a style that’s from another musical era and they’re just told so beautifully.”

As an Oberlin College and Conservatory student, D’Emilio trained as a classical vocal performer.

“I knew from a young age that that that was my calling was something in music,” D’Emilio said.“And I thought at the time it was performance, I just didn’t realize that my stage would eventually be the classroom and not the operatic stage alone.”

After getting her master’s degree, she moved back to Oklahoma with her husband.

“We both were pursuing professional opera careers and then he wanted to go to law school,” D’Emilio said. “And so, he moved us here to Oklahoma, so I could be near to my parents.”

It was in Oklahoma that D’Emilio started teaching voice.

“I went out to lunch with one of my old musical influences,” she said. “Now, friend, previously teacher, and the Holy Spirit was kind of sitting in on our conversation.”

A week later, she received an email from OBU offering her a job as an adjunct faculty member.

One of most difficult challenges for D’Emilio was developing how to grade vocal work.

“Quantifying vocal growth in a letter grade, I think that was something hard to kind of make something subjective, objective,” she said. “And so I’ve gone through making a bunch of rubrics, and that’s been really helpful.”

One aspect of the work she feels strongly about is encouraging students to enjoy their work.

“Oftentimes, the work that needs to be done can overcome the original thing that brought us to music which is to sing for the joy of God,” she said. “I always ensure that my students [think of] 10 reasons why [they] love singing for [their] next lesson.”

This view of music as for the glory of God can be seen in D’Emilio’s own life and work.

“Her love for Christ is evident when she sings, and when she teaches and when she walks down the halls,” Mathews said.

While students may have difficult times in their studies – especially at the end of a long spring semester, it’s about continuing to try.

“You know, you can climb the mountain, you can just do it one step at a time,” D’Emilio said. “But you have to take the first step.” “

2019 Spring Affair “Super” in many ways

By Olivianna Calmes, Assistant Arts Editor

There is so much to say about OBU’s “Su-per Spring Affair”, it is hard to fi nd where to start. Everyone could fi nd something they liked between the nu-merous music acts, stage band, and emcee skits and videos. The superhero theme was shown throughout the skits and stage band set list, most prominently.

The much-beloved stage band is comprised mostly of seniors (ex-cept for Misael) this year, and this was their last show. It was heart-warming to see them pour their hearts into the music and both play beautifully and rock out.

The winners of the show, Mad Respect, changed the scene of the night. These three fabulous singers sang Respect, made famous by Aretha Franklin. They included dance steps and their harmony was spot on. From their electrifying entrance to their sassy last note, this group really stole the show.

The Co-Pilots were a great start to the show. The five-person group consisting of all seniors performed “Tear in my Heart”, by Twenty One Pilots.

Jonny vocals were in peak form and the band’s performance matched. Brady Cox, the only solo act, did a mashup of “Lean on Me” and a song by NEEDTOBREATHE.

He got the whole audience clapping along. His slightly raspy tone did the song justice. He was one to watch.

Brad and the Babes (B.A.T.B) showcased beautiful harmonies in a rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”. Everyone seemed to love it.

The 3 J’s and a W gave everyone some indie/alternative feels and the performers were talented musicians.

Mostly Seniors was another amazing addition to the show as a whole. They performed “How to Love”, by PJ Morton.

Us the Dectet performed Us the Duo’s “(Stop) Just Love”. Their group looked great in their matching colors. Kawehi started the performance with a single voice and then others followed.

Brittney Poe’s wind-blown hair and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy impression add-ed lots of pizazz to the skits.

Jordan brought lots of energy to the stage, shining in the sky-high remake skit as the teacher.

Chapman’s acting was impressive, especially when channeling his inner Harry Potter and Dr. Doofenshmirtz. His vocal solo about a hard childhood, singing as the antagonist from Phineas and Ferb was quite funny.

Jimi Parker stole the show with his Nacho Libre impression in both a physical skit and a video skit.

He has just recently won the Blitz Week show, Mr. Bison Pag-eant, and was named Mr. Bison for the year.

He also acted like Jack Jack from the Incredibles, which was an impressive feat.

Brand new members of CAB were included in this show. Many freshmen greeted and handed out programs.

The lobby of Raley was covered in comic strip décor and photo-booth setups.

During halftime, half-time crew served skittles and drinks.

Many people are commenting on the bird that was flying in Potter Auditorium during the show. The bird swooped down near isles and allegedly pooped as well. I guess it really was a bird, not a plane OR superman.

Overall, this was a good show and the musical talent surprised people in the audience as it always does in one way or another.

OBU hosts spring University Chorale concert, bids Ballweg farewell

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

OBU Burton H. Patterson professor of music and director of choral activities Dr. D. Brent Ballweg directed his final University Chorale concert Apr. 16.

Ballweg will retire from higher education this summer, to take up a position as associate director and conference liaison for the American Choral Directors Association in their national office located in Oklahoma City.

“I’ve been involved with ACDA for my entire career, those 37 years on the side of volunteering,” Ballweg said.“And I’ve had a bunch of leadership positions in the state, and our regions and national organization and so now, I’m going to be on the flip side, and helping all the folks do the things that I used to be doing in those volunteer situations.”

Known to many of his students as “Dr. B,” Ballweg has served at OBU for nine years.

“He’s played a big role in my life,” senior theatre major McKenzie Reece said.

Reece studied under Ball-weg both in University Chorale and OBU’s acapella ensemble, True Voice – another vocal ensemble directed by Ballweg.

“I have loved getting to work with him and grow with him, underneath him as a student,” she said. “He’s helped me be a more collaborative singer, but also have the confidence, and him and his wife, Mrs. B, they’re like the parents of the Chorale.”

For Dr. Ballweg, the best part of his time at OBU has been getting to know and work with the students.

“It’s always going to get back to the students, to the singers and just the personal relationships that I’ve had,” he said.

At the close of the Chorale concert, the choir sang “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” by Paul Manz. Performing the piece at every show is a tradition that Ballweg has shared with his students both at OBU and at other schools.

“We’ve sung the same benediction song for all these years. The last song we sing is a motet by Paul Manz […the] text comes from Revelation 22 and so that’s always very special,” Ballweg said.

The piece has a special place in the hearts of both the students, alumni and Ballweg.

“I’m so proud of all the work that we’ve done,” Reece said.“And what this group has done over [my] four years [at OBU]. The hardest piece that I think will be singing is ‘E’en So, Lord Jesus.’ That is our anthem as the Chorale. It’s our motto. And it will be very emotional to sing that for the last time.”

Every year when the choir closes the final spring concert, alumni are invited to attend and to join in singing with the choir.

“I’ve [also] let it be known through social media and such that any some Southern Nazarene University Chorale members in the area come to the concert, we want them up there as well,” Ballweg said. “So that would be pretty special just to see a lot of former members of both places.”

Ballweg taught at Southern Nazarene University for 10 years before coming to OBU.

The performance provided a chance for students from multiple schools were Ballweg had taught to come together and celebrate his career achievements.

During his time at OBU, Ballweg taught numerous music class, directed University Chorale and True voice, and taken both groups on tour around the country.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, he led a group of University Chorale students to perform in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

“There’s always been some wonderful performances. […] I think of last year when we sang […] in Carnegie Hall,” Ballweg said. ‘Okay, New York City, that was pretty special for a lot of students.”

Other memories include performing in OBU’s annual Christmas performance.

“I think of several performances of ‘Messiah’ during the Hanging of the Green; they’re very special because I love that work, I love that style,” he said.