December 9, 2019

First Note to Final Bow

Original muscial compositions take Christianity to the concert hall.

Wilona Karimabadi

Lawrence Galera, music teacher at Collegedale Academy in Tennessee, credits his grandmother with first instilling in him a passion for musical theater. She was the one to first expose him to different musical productions and he felt immediately drawn to the genre. “I was greatly impressed, and loved everything I’ve seen and was drawn emotionally to it. I just loved every minute of it and was very inspired,” he says. That started him on his own musical journey that took him into the world of composing original musical productions.

As the former music teacher at Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain Academy, Galera found himself with access to a choir, a band, and an orchestra, and it wasn’t long before his first production—themed on the story of Noah and the great Flood—was born. “I decided to write something that would give my students a biblical perspective through music—theater music and the drama experience,” says Galera. Another production followed, this time on the Exodus story, following the life of Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Both works incorporated classical composer music as well.

“I had symphonies from Beethoven, from Schubert, and some opera choruses that infused the music,” Galera recalls. “I wrote my own lyrics, so both—music and lyrics—were infused into the overall production.” Galera next created a completely original production—holding all rights to the lyrics and music—based on the story of Esther. This work was specially commissioned for the music program at San Gabriel Academy in southern California.

Galera’s love of music is best expressed in musical theater. But the unique connection he makes to the Author of music is evident through the subject matter his productions are focused on. “Particularly with the biblical themes and the lessons we as Christians learn from them, students are able to play [the music] and see different roles,” says Galera. Yet while playing and studying the pieces, Galera’s students are actually gaining so much more. “They are internalizing the plot and characters and seeing different aspects of the story that we are always trying to learn from in order to make ourselves better.”

“The combination of biblical principles and Christian values that we learn about gives us a little more perspective,” he adds. “As the students develop themselves as musicians working with each other in the orchestra and through their instruments, or even as singers and soloists in the chorus, we have the experience of seeing this art form come alive as a ministry.”

The journey from an idea to an actual polished performance is never an easy one. But Galera has felt the hand of God guiding him in bringing biblical inspiration to musical fruition. “In every step of the way, every time I sit down and compose or write lyrics to orchestrate, there is a sense of prayer that I need to connect with,” Galera says. “And from the beginning of the first note written to the actual final performance and final bow, it’s such a fulfilling experience to know that I am supported by a higher divine power that helps me get through it.”

Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review.