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Landgrave overcomes serious injury to finish gospel-based musical drama

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Philip Landgrave usually walks off the tennis court after a match. Last Jan. 15, paramedics carried him off. The professor of church music at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., slipped and hit his head on the floor, fracturing his skull.
Landgrave’s injury left him unconscious for three days. Doctors considered his condition grave, so they instructed his wife to “call in the family.” Family members were told to prepare for the worst.
Not only did the accident threaten his life, it also threatened his completion of “God’s Love Song,” a musical drama he was writing based on the Gospel of John.
Landgrave did regain consciousness. But he temporarily lost his ability to speak and to hear. God heard the countless prayers of friends and family from around the globe, however, as a subsequent X-ray revealed Landgrave’s condition to be on the mend.
“It was an overwhelming experience to get e-mails sent by friends from South Korea, Brazil, Panama and many other places,” Landgrave reflected. “It is a witness to me of how God can use his people to uphold other people.”
While lightheaded and dizzy, Landgrave worked from his hospital bed to fine-tune and add finishing touches to the 500-page score for “God’s Love Song,” including the remaining orchestral parts, sometimes working up to 12 hours a day.
Landgrave’s passion for “God’s Love Song” and the events surrounding his effort to finish it wrought a unified commitment on the part of Southern Seminary’s music faculty and students to complete the work for its already-scheduled public performances.
The need to finish brought a response of heightened energy and was identified as a “mission of ministry” for all involved, said Mozelle Clark Sherman, also a church music professor and director for the Church Music Drama Theatre at Southern who primarily has been responsible for staging and producing “God’s Love Song.”
“We who are working on this can feel it,” she said. “This is a mission that has been given.” Sherman said Landgrave’s determination, confidence and purpose in the work had been “ignited by God.”
The 140-minute musical drama features more than 50 acting roles, two choirs and Southern’s orchestra.
Though he’d been home barely two weeks, Landgrave was forced back into the hospital on Feb. 2 by phlebitis and blood clots. But he kept on working on the musical drama.
“Always, such a large work needs refinement,” he said. “So, I continued straightening out small discrepancies and making sure everything would be ready.”
What began two and a half years ago as a project involving a broad sweep of the Gospels has evolved into a dramatic presentation of the Gospel of John. Driven by his reverence and love for the message of the New Testament book, Landgrave has based every word of his musical drama on the gospel narrative. Described as an expression of the gospel through music, “God’s Love Song” emphasizes the evangelistic focus of John’s motive.
“John, the evangelist, told us of the things that he had seen and heard so that we might believe,” explained Landgrave, who sees the purpose of John’s writing as a way for people to indeed understand who Jesus Christ was and have an opportunity to believe in him.
“I want for ‘God’s Love Song’ the same thing the Apostle John wanted for what he wrote: that people would believe in Jesus,” said Landgrave in an interview from his home.
“We are retelling the greatest story ever told,” said Landgrave, his “we” including seminary students and other singers from area churches who will help present the musical drama.
“We will do as John’s book does and bear witness with him that the things concerning Jesus are true,” Landgrave said.
Landgrave, who continues to recuperate at home, said, “I have to be careful that I walk straight and don’t fall down. Hey, now there’s a message,” he quipped.
The Church Music Drama Theater at Southern will offer two performances of “God’s Love Song,” at 1:30 p.m. on March 20 and 7:30 p.m. on March 23. Admission is free. Groups of twenty or more may reserve seats for the March 20 performance by calling (502) 897-4115 for more information. Local cable viewers may view the March 23 performance live on the Faith channel.

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  • Steve Smartt