This week leading up to Easter is referred to as Holy Week, or Passion Week, in many of our Christian traditions. We set aside this week to read through the Gospel accounts and remember the final days and sufferings of Christ. Good Friday is when we generally mark the crucifixion, where Jesus sacrificed himself for our atonement.
Friday night at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn. Bill Wolf, theologian and singer-songwriter – and Foundling House contributer, will be presenting Easter Stories and Songs alongside a collection of talented musicians. The evening will be a mixture of narrative storytelling interspersed with music and scripture of the final days of Christ leading up to His death on the cross and His resurrection.
Foundling House had the opportunity to ask Bill Wolf about the show.
(FH) How would you describe Easter Stories & Songs?
(BW) Easter Stories & Songs is a 10 song cycle that tells the story of Holy Week, from Triumphal Entry to Resurrection. The songs are interspersed with creative re-tellings of each biblical scene that work to weave everything together and guide the narrative.
(FH) What was the initial impetus for the album and the performance of Easter Stories & Songs?
(BW) The church I was attending set aside a year to study the Gospel of John. John slows way down when he gets to the last week of Jesus’ life. In fact, all of the gospel writers do. And as John slowed down his writing, our church slowed down our study. And as our church slowed down our study, I was forced to slow down in my own quiet time. So, I sat with these biblical stories for weeks and it really was from that devotional time that each of these songs was born. I didn’t necessarily see a connection between the songs until later that year when I was asked to play a concert at a local church around Easter. I thought, “Well, I could do some of the new ones.” As I put the set-list together it was clear that the songs really worked well together to tell the story.
(FH) Can you describe the flow of the show, how you blend story, song and scripture?
(BW) The flow is very straight-forward: story then song, story then song, ten times over. There are not any straight-forward scripture readings. The songs and the stories, however, are soaked in Scripture and specific references pop up everywhere, sometimes they are obvious and sometimes they more subtle. Again, the whole thing was born out of a my own private devotional readings in John…and I think it shows!
(FH) Where are some places and for how long have you been performing Easter Stories & Songs?
(BW) Our first performance was in the Knoxville Botanical Gardens in 2010. Since that time, we have traveled all along the East Coast (Buffalo, New York to Tampa, Fla.), the South East and the Midwest. We are most often in churches, big and small. We’ve performed in a cathedral, on a front porch, and even in a maximum security prison. We have also performed portions of it at two different funerals. The story is always the same, obviously. But the context makes each show different. For example, singing about the hope and the freedom of the resurrection is much different when you are with 400 inmates, many of whom will never see the outside of prison walls.
(FH) Are there any interesting stories from those shows, or reactions of those experiencing it that you want to share?
(BW) This is my favorite thing to do musically, in part because afterward the comments are never about me. They are always about the story. I had a man say to me, “I am 87 and have been a Christian my whole life and I don’t know if I have ever really understood the death and resurrection of Jesus until today.” It is just so humbling every time.
(FH) Who all are joining you, and brief info about them, as well as who are some of the more notable folks you’ve performed with, either in this show or otherwise.
(BW) The primary players are:
Greg Adkins & Adam Whipple, two local artists and dear friends who have influenced me more than any other as a song-writer and musician; they are playing keys, accordion, guitar, penny-whistle and lap-steel. Thomas and Amanda Smith, the married front couple of the Knoxville-based band, An Atlas to Follow, are adding a plethora of acoustic instruments (violin, banjo, mandolin, guitar) and vocals. Kirby Waggoner, out of Nashville, is playing guitar and Cord Johnson, out of Knoxville, is playing bass. Milton Chamblee is playing drums.
Outside of the core band, our special guests are Skye Peterson, an up and coming songwriter out of Nashville, Stephen Humphries, world-champion hammered dulcimer player out of Chattanooga, a full string section, and a 10 person choir from Johnson University.
(FH) What do you hope the audience will either take from the show or what is the experience you are hoping help provide for them?
(BW) Oh, I hope they experience the joy and the hope of the resurrection, whether this is the first time they hear the story or whether they have heard it for 87 years. Honestly, it is that simple!
About the show:
Easter Stories & Songs The Bijou Theatre Knoxville, Tenn. April 19 (Good Friday). Doors open at 6:00pm. Show is at 7:00pm. To learn more or purchase tickets visit easterstoriesandsongs.com