The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Luther rocks opera

Music soaring, bombastic

This project might not be for everyone but, for some, it could be a dream come true: a 1980s-style rock opera based on the life of Martin Luther.

Neal Morse is a master of what is called “prog-rock,” a hybrid genre of rock and classical music pioneered by bands like Yes, Genesis and Kansas. Morse has led a popular prog-rock group called Spock’s Beard.

Sola Scriptura
(Radiant Records, 2007, available at Neal Morse's Web site) is soaring, bombastic and gloriously self-indulgent.

In terms of content, the project doesn’t tell the story of the Reformation so much as it uses themes from Luther’s struggle to present a universal tale. It opens with a dark portrait of a community that conquers and kills in the name of God. The Luther figure arises as a solitary believer who asks, “How can I keep silent when I know the truth?” After a struggle with his conscience, he makes his witness public (posting it on a door). He is then hunted like “a wild boar in a vineyard” and cast out by those who are “party to the lie.” This all leads to the work’s stirring conclusion: “God can change the world with just one willing soul.”

The tone of this epic is decidedly apocalyptic: each character represents “good” or “evil” with nothing in between. Historically we know that Luther had many faults and the Roman Catholics he opposed had many virtues. But this is no nuanced history lesson, and Morse wants the “corrupt church” in his drama to be identified with the generic threat of coercive, self-serving religion that can exist anytime, anywhere. We all know the demonic allure of seeking power and self-preservation, and yet (like Luther) we know we’ve been chosen by God for something better: to be people marked with the cross of Christ.




Posted at 3:54 pm (U.S. Eastern) 3/30/2008

1980's?  Are you confused with decades?  This is clearly 1970's style of music.

Ross Garside

Ross Garside

Posted at 12:43 pm (U.S. Eastern) 4/2/2008

Davis is correct about Prog Rock being early '70's style music.  Prog Rock was the dominant music form on the airwaves back then, just prior to Disco.  Please consider doing an article on the MUSIC of Neal (Christian Progressive Rock - CProg), as well as Neal's conversion to Christianity and his current ministry.  He will be back in the U.S. on April 26th.  Neal is the single most-talented all-around musician this country has ever produced, of ANY genre.  Another Christian artist to consider doing an article on is Kerry Livgren, founder of the group Kansas, who began the CProg genre.


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