Remastered: “Spirit-renewed”

It was the emotional finale of an inspiring Pentecost service: the anthem “Spirit-renewed” was the final piece and the musical highlight. Read on to find out where the piece comes from and how it was created?

The marimba is missing. More than thirty audio tracks and six camera tracks from the Pentecost service in our Tafelsig church in South Africa have been remixed—but the marimba is missing. No way! Because the percussion instrument—it looks a bit like a xylophone and also belongs to that family of instruments—literally played an important part in the rousing final piece that thrilled listeners around the world.

Musical interpretation of the motto

“Spirit-renewed” was the motto of the 2023 Pentecost festivities in Cape Town. It picked up on the themes of the corresponding previous gatherings at the same location. In 2006 the motto was “Spirit alive”, in 2010 it was “One Spirit, one goal”.

“Spirit-renewed” is the title of the final anthem performed at the Pentecost service. It consists of 140 bars and 34 systems and is written for two choirs, brass and woodwinds, strings, harp, piano, and organ—and of course percussion. Composer John Rodriques calls it an anthem in Western Classical style—with an African part. And that came into being first.

Rhythmically and alternately

“Taka tataa, taka tataa.” This was the rhythm with shifted accentuation (syncopation) that went through the musician’s head as he set out to compose his own work for the 2023 Pentecost festivities. He heads the music department of the New Apostolic Church Southern Africa, which consists of four people, and was responsible for the musical programme.

“Taka tataa, taka tataa”. This rhythm introduces the African part in bar 42, with alternating singing between the children and the male choir. “Spirit-renewed”, “we’ll walk in love”, and “we’ll shine Your light”. This is the text. And then the conductor brings in the percussion—including the marimba.

Between confusion and excitement

“With verve”, “with energy”, “ethereal”—these are some of the tempos and dynamics for the choir, and which differ somewhat from the usual recital descriptions found in a score. It reflects what John Rodriques read in Acts 2 about the events at the first Pentecost.

The piece begins tenderly and mysteriously and builds into a rousing fortissimo after just ten bars. Later there are passages with dissonant chords that mimic the confusion of the crowd and the many languages being spoken by the people.

Verse, refrain, verse, refrain, bridge—this is the structure of the piece that was created in the space of two weeks. In the third refrain it builds up to a rousing finale. The members attending the divine service in Tafelsig burst into spontaneous applause. “I don’t have the words to express my feelings,” the Chief Apostle said. “Thank you, thank you so much!”

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Andreas Rother
South Africa, Pentecost, Music