Steven Chesne
Sapient: A Cantata of Peace
Brahmasong Records (2017)

By Bob Marovich

The first thing to understand about television, film, and concert music composer Steven Chesne’s Sapient: A Cantata of Peace is that it cannot be defined as gospel music, or spirituals, or hymns, or anthems, or religious symphonic music. Nevertheless, it is sacred music in the broadest sense of the term.

The nineteen meditative parts of the cantata are sung in several languages, with lyrics based on prayers, chants, and writings that represent a variety of faiths and cultures. In Chesne’s musical landscape, the Kikuyu sit with the Baha’i, the Cheyenne commune with the Sikhs, and Christians contemplate the words of Lao Tzu. The artists hail from different traditions, but their message is about unity, peace, kindness, compassion, and the Golden Rule.

The music, on the other hand, is crafted in such a way as to highlight the distinctive beauty of the prayers and chants while also defining their essential singularity. Particularly noteworthy sections of the cantata are “Create Peace and Compassion,” a Jewish chant from morning liturgy (with a remarkable centering drone); “Love Your Enemies,” words of Jesus from Luke 6:27-36; and the “Wisdom Knot,” which effectively combines all of the belief traditions into one final surge of radiant musical energy.

The packaging is well crafted and contains no less than two booklets: one with credits and photos of the artists at work, and the other with lyrics in English and the native language of the respective song.

In an age where difference is a currency, Sapient: A Cantata of Peace reminds us that deep down inside, we all want the same thing. It reminded me of a line Jewel Kilcher (not on this project) once sang: “In the end, only kindness matters.”

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Create Peace and Compassion,” “The Wisdom Knot.”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.