With Christianity seemingly being asked to be more and more ‘relevant’ in the 21st century it is perhaps striking to see an event which seeks to celebrate the 400th anniversary of one of the oldest British translations of the Bible, the well renowned King James version. Armed with just this translation, some classical songs heavily influenced by this text and some images, Christian poetry performer and actor Lance Pierson, soprano singer Belinda Yates and keyboardist Heather Chamberlain have come together and are bringing the King James Bible ‘to life’ through a number of live performances throughout the UK.
First off, for someone who has been brought up on a cocktail of the Youth Bible, the NIV and latterly, the ESV, I found the performance of this much older version surprisingly and refreshingly easy to understand and engage with right from the outset. This isn’t to say that Pierson and co felt it sufficiently necessary to tinker with the original text, jazzing it up and ‘making it more relevant’. As far as I could see, the entire performance was both faithful to the original translation and depicted it accurately from start to finish. The whole story of the Bible was also loyally represented, from the creation and it’s fall, to the choosing of the Israelite nation, to the fulfilment of the gospel (i.e. his crucifixion and resurrection for the sins of mankind) to the foretelling of the second coming and judgement. Indeed, it was this faithfulness to the text which was the most pleasing and entertaining aspect of the show, proving that Christian arts events can be both entertaining and informative whilst being faithful to original scripture.
As far as the actual performances were concerned, I felt it was a professional effort throughout. Pierson was able to both be both slightly comedic, somewhat of a novelty when orating the creation of the world for example, and engagingly sombre, his narration of the crucifixion being a prime instance of this. Yates, like Pierson appeared very professional and in tune (something essential in singing I’m told) and helpfully for operatic novices such as myself, the words she was singing were displayed in bright white type on a projector at the same time. Other elements of the performance, particularly the images, added little to the show, and didn’t in my view especially enhance the overall viewing experience. I felt also that the trio could have tinkered slightly with the formulaic structure; (note I am definitely not advocating for a change in content) the format of having a reading, followed by a song, followed by a reading, followed by another song etc,causing the mind to wonder at points.
These latter points aside, this performance is definitely something I’d recommend, not least for its commitment to faithfulness and its clear and engaging expounding of the gospel. Clearly, Pierson and co, know how to put their orating and singing gifts to good use!