Musicians make meal of Gnostic Gospels

Douglas College creative writing instructor Rick Maddocks has made a name for himself through writing both fiction and music, so it seemed a logical progression for him to tackle a project that would combine the two passions.

Best known as the frontman of local atmospheric roots band The Beige, Maddocks has collaborated with a handful of other local indie musicians and theatre types to compose The Meal, a (sort of) musical based on the biblical Last Supper, which will be making its premiere at this year’s PuSh Festival in Vancouver.

Full Meal: The Lost Gospel Ensemble is made up (from left to right) of Rick Maddocks, Jody Glenham, Lucien Durey, Stephen Lyons, Corbin Murdoch, Sean Fulton and Jon Wood. (Belinda Bruce photo)

“I think that a lot of people’s warning lights go on when they hear the words ‘musical’ or ‘Christianity,’ but this is really more of a song cycle,” said Maddocks. “I wouldn’t characterize it as a musical, but there is no dialogue.”

The performance imagines what might have transpired immediately before and after the world’s most famous awkward dinner party.

Maddocks, who describes himself as a “free agent” rather than a Christian, said he has always been interested in religion and the idea for The Meal came to him after studying the so-called Gnostic Gospels, the teachings of Christ supposedly written by apostles that nonetheless didn’t make the final edit of the Bible.

The lost gospels have recently gained renewed attention after being featured in the Dan Brown bestseller The Da Vinci Code.

“I was approached by the PuSh Festival and offered a commission to create a pro-ject that stepped outside of the bounds of what I usually do,” said Maddocks, whose critically acclaimed short story collection Sputnik Diner was nominated for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. “The Gnostic Gospels always seemed intriguing to me, but I didn’t really know a whole lot about them, so I basically just did a whole lot of reading and research. It was really a discovery process and an investigation. There are so many controversial ideas that came out of the Gnostic Gospels such as the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and all these other writings that weren’t allowed into the Bible.”

Given the subject matter, it likely won’t come as a surprise that the style of music is also gospel.

“The idea kind of percolated during a time I was getting into ’70s gospel funk, but I wanted to try something that wasn’t just imitating established gospel music, which would be kind of foolish of me to do because I don’t come from that tradition.”

So instead of a full gospel choir backing things up, The Meal instead features a backing band and a four-person cast made up of local chanteuse Jody Glenham as Mary Magdalene, Nautical Miles lead singer Corbin Murdoch as Judas, The Abramson Singers’ Lucien Durey as John, and Maddocks himself stepping into the sandals of Thomas.

(This story was first published Jan. 26, 2011. © Copyright (c) New West Record)

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