Margaret Rizza: The renowned composer of Christian choral music

Friday 25th August 2017

Tony Cummings spoke to the opera singer turned bestselling composer of choral music MARGARET RIZZA

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Margaret: I couldn't agree more - it's hurling itself to the edge. Once it does that, can we come back? We most probably can't come back; but things can change, and this is what is so wonderful.

Tony: The privilege you and I enjoy - me as a journalist, you through your music - is to be able to share with others about the riches we've found in Christ. Do you find that wears you out?

Margaret: Not really. In a way, we put the cart before the horse at the beginning of this conversation. We spoke about getting into the depths, getting outside the mind, but it's all to do with understanding the teaching of Jesus. The Gospel of John is my favourite because it's the most mystical one - I'm crazy about the mystical aspect of it - but it's deeply ingrained, as you are saying, with the people, the poor people in Stoke-on-Trent. I'm in a very rich part of the country in Sevenoaks with very well-heeled people, but there is this huge importance in the gifts we've been given of Jesus, knowing Jesus who offers us life in its fullness. It's very difficult to help people to understand this when they are trying to survive each day with the brokenness they are involved in and the difficulty with health problems, separations. I can't start talking about the Bible or "Jesus is the way"; but it gives me a huge amount of humility to know this when I'm with people. But you - with the work you do, your journalism - and I try with my music to reach out through Jesus, who is in my music, to people who are very disadvantaged or who are going through great difficulties. It's how we live, how I can possibly live my Christianity, in the world. I have an evangelical group at my home every other Tuesday, and we were talking about this - the impotence that we feel. We're very gifted, very privileged, but how can we get through; the gift of Christ within each one of us, how can we best illustrate it? Really, I suppose, it's being where we are and blooming where we're planted, in our tiny, tiny little God-given ways. There are numerous miracles, I find, each day, which can be so overlooked, and not even realised; and yet they are miracles: there's beauty in the simplicity of that. Once you see it in that light, it's a shift in consciousness; you see it in the light of Christ.

Tony: Are there one or two of your songs you feel go some way towards that aim?

Margaret: Certainly there are. There's one I wrote some time ago, "Creator God". "In the darkness of the still night/In the dawning of the daylight/In the mystery of creation/Creator God, you are there." It highlights everything that I believe.

Tony: We've got so many people in the western world who believe that life is just an accidental collision of atoms.

Margaret: I know. This is what is frightening; it's so frightening. Just to go on with that first verse: "In the homeless and the hungry/In the broken and the lonely/In the grieving of your people/Creator God, you are there. In the tears and in the heartache/In the love through which we serve you/In the anguish of the dying/Creator God, you are there." I try to pin these things in our hearts, in our thinking, because it's not about this awful business of separation - God out there, the duality - it's God deep within us, within all these things we are aware of that we're mixed up in. "In the yearning of our heartbeat/Creator God, you are there/In the love for one another/In the sharing of our being/In receiving and giving/Creator God, you are there." The last verse: "In our joys, our hopes, our healing/In the wakening to revealing/In your call and our responding/Creator God, you are there. In our prayer and in our service/In our praise and in our worship/In your love that is eternal/Creator God, you are there." Really that's where I am in the music. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.

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