In Alumni, School of Music

Production about last days of Christ will be released just in time for Easter

Photo courtesy of Courtney Lawson

For anyone familiar with the music of Rob Gardner, it will come as no surprise that his many fans feel a strong connection to his work — especially the musicians who perform it.

Last month Gardner assembled an impressive cast of accomplished musicians to create a feature film version of his beloved oratorio “Lamb of God.” It will be released in select theaters across the country on March 12.

Gardner, a BYU Marriott School of Business alum, also attended USC, doing graduate studies in the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program. 

He has become an accomplished composer of original works for film, theatre and the concert stage, and is the author of several stage musicals and sacred music oratorios. According to Deseret Book, the work has been compared to Handel’s “Messiah” and Mozart’s “Requiem.”

Filming for “Lamb of God” took place on a socially distanced sound stage in Park City, Utah. Capturing the performance on film required gathering a choir, an orchestra and 15 vocal and instrumental soloists, including BYU faculty members Monte Belknap (concertmaster) and clarinet professor Jaren Hinckley. A number of BYU students and alumni were also involved in making the film.

One of the soloists was BYU alum and adjunct faculty member Dallyn Bayles, who played Pilate. He is a professional singer, actor, recording artist and teacher who has performed with Broadway tours of “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Misérables.”

Bayles first met Gardner at BYU when he played the role of Joseph in a production of “Joseph Smith the Prophet” at Abravanel Hall. When Gardner and producer Rob Moffat approached him about the project, Bayles jumped at the opportunity.

“I already knew a lot of the people involved in the production,” Bayles said. “And I love performing Gardner’s work. There’s such a passion behind it. He understands human emotion and expresses it in such a beautiful way, both lyrically and musically.”

Photo courtesy of Courtney Lawson

The oratorio choir was made up entirely of BYU students. Choral conductors from the School of Music offered the opportunity to 30 advanced vocalists based on their audition scores. Student Courtney Lawson was among them.

“To be in a group of musicians singing about Christ — it was beautiful,” Lawson said. “It was so great to hear live singing again. It brought me so much joy.”

“There’s a synergy between you and the choir and the orchestra, sharing this message about the Savior through such a powerful method of storytelling,” said Bayles. “It’s the story of our personal salvation and our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine a story that’s more worth telling.”

The choir members committed to four hours of rehearsal on set, followed by two days of filming. They arrived early and stayed late, in addition to the lengthy commute to and from Park City. For Lawson, it was worth every moment.

“It was exactly what I needed right now: a group of people I knew, singing praise of Christ and His story,” Lawson said. “For many of us it was a reaffirmation of our testimony.”

The experience also renewed Lawson’s commitment to a career in arts administration. She reflected on the importance of the arts and the role she hopes to play. 

“The film was a reminder of what good can come from music and the arts,” Lawson said. “During the pandemic many people have said that the arts aren’t essential. But after seeing the results of this performance, I don’t think anyone can deny its worth. That’s really comforting for me. I need music in my life. Other people need it, and they need people like me to take the risk of educating others.”

Bayles agreed. “The arts are a celebration of humanity, the things that bring us beauty and joy,” he said. “I believe the Lord uses the arts as tools of the spirit. Music is the language of heaven. The arts are such a vital part of a holistic education; they develop the heart as well as the brain.”

Bayles also reflected on what he loves most about performing. “If I had to choose one thing, it’s the opportunity to do projects of a spiritual nature like ‘Lamb of God,’” he said. “It goes beyond portraying a character; it taps into something very deep in my own heart and soul. It means so much to me personally to use my talents to share that kind of story. It just thrills me in ways that no other kind of work can.”

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