The idea for The Gospel According to George came to me at a Messiah sing-along at Yale University several years ago. The beautiful hall was crowded with enthusiastic music lovers who brought their own scores or bought one at the door. The soloists were exquisite, the music powerful.
The Chinese graduate student sitting next to me had never heard the oratorio before; she only knew that it was famous. She didn’t sing, but as a Christian, she came along to find out what all the excitement was about. At the intermission she turned to me. “Do all these people believe what they are singing?” she asked in an awed voice. Sadly, I had to confess that most loved the music but had no idea what it was about. After that I couldn’t shake the idea of a book to take Messiah-lovers “beyond the music” to grasp the depth and breadth of the story Handel told.
WeAs I worked my way through the oratorio, movement by movement, I was thrilled to discover that it went far deeper than I had imagined, embracing the entire story of redemption from creation in Genesis to re-creation in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. A vision grew in my head of an enhanced ebook where readers would be able to listen to the music as they read about the movement and meditated on its significance in their own lives. At a dinner party, I invited my dear friend Sylvia Patterson Scott to join me and contribute her marvelous understanding of music to my research into the texts. I was thrilled with her enthusiasm for the project, and her insights did not disappoint.
Books are complicated creations, and the writing is only the beginning. We spent more than a year searching for the right recording for the enhanced ebook and approaching copyright owners only to be discouraged time after time. Again it was over dinner—this time at a theological education conference—as I was venting my frustration, that the person next to me said, “Our company owns to the rights to a recording of Messiah. By someone named John Rutter, I think.”
John Rutter? Only the gold standard in modern choral music. Eventually we were able to come to an agreement with Hendrickson Publishers. Again I was thrilled to find that the Rutter recording takes an early music approach much like would have been performed in Handel’s time rather that the bombastic mass choirs of the Victorian era.
The final challenge has been creating the enhanced ebook. Despite the enthusiasm of my agent, we found no publisher that was willing to take on the project. Since I did my initial research into possibilities, Kindle had discontinued their interactive educational software. Apple Books was the only possibility. Time for a new learning curve since, although I read Apple Books all the time on my phone, I had never before used the Pages software necessary to embed the audio files. But it proved to be simpler than I had feared. When I uploaded the finished product to my own Apple device, the experience of reading and listening was exactly what I had hoped for and the Rutter recording nearly left me in tears.
It was a long path from concept to completion, spanning years of frustration and discouragement, but the vision never died. If you truly believe in your project, don’t give up. Take the time to learn what you need to make the project work.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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