March 10, 2000
As the fifth-year anniversary of the April 19th Oklahoma City bombing approaches, one Oklahoma Baptist woman has commemorated the event in a song of healing that is gaining notice from musicians throughout the country.
Dr. Nancy Cobb Lippens, Oklahoma Baptist University professor of music, wrote the music for Threnody for an April Day to accompany poetry written by a witness of the tragedy. That witness was her sister.
The genesis of the 30-minute work for chorus and orchestra was a conversation between Lippens and her sister, Ernestine Hill Clark, director for development for the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County. On April 19, 1995, Clark was meeting with the MLS executive director when both were thrown across the room and showered with shattering glass from the force of the explosion of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Though her abrasions were minor, Clark was in shock and was immediately caught up with a wounded co-worker in the chaos of the aftermath. Witnessing survivors being brought from the building and seeing the empty, smoky spaces of former friends' offices caused Clark to have nightmares for months. The children killed in the bombing had been expected in Clark's library within one hour of the bombing.
To recover from the tragedy, Clark was advised by a post-traumatic-stress psychologist to talk about her experiences or write them down. She wrote more than 100 pages of journal entries within a year of the bombing.
Lippens approached Clark about consolidating her journal entries into poetic form. Lippens selected several psalms and traditional Latin texts to complement Clark's poetry.
One of the psalms she chose was Psalm 94. "It is the psalmist's reaction in Psalm 94 that most of us echo anytime there is a senseless murder," she said. "'O Lord God, unto whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself. Lord, how long will the wicked triumph? They break in pieces thy people, they slay the widow and the stranger and murder the fatherless.'
"In conversations with my sister about her poetry, I was struck by the healing that came to her from the support of the people of God. This is reflected in her poetry and in my selection of "Ubi Caratas" or ‘Where there is charity and love, God is there.' God gets us through horrific experiences by surrounding us with the love of Christian brothers and sisters."
Lippens said the final work is designed to express the horrific senseless violence of the bombing and the emotions that accompany it … anger, loss, despair, hope, and finding strength in God to move on.
Lippens will conduct Oklahoma City's Canterbury Choral Society and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in the world premiere of her Threnody for an April Day, on March 17-18, 2000.
Threnody was one of four works cited by ASCAP for "Special Distinction" out of 220 entries in the annual Rudolph Nissim Orchestral Competition in 1999.
Lippens, who is conductor for the OBU's University Chorale, has been a member of the University's faculty since 1976, and is an OBU graduate. She received her master of music degree from Michigan State University and a doctorate in music from the University of Oklahoma. She teaches courses in theory, composition and conducting.
She has had compositions published by Hinshaw, Gentry, Alliance, Leawood, Van Ness and Bourne. Her recent publications include "Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above," "Bless the Lord, O My Soul," and "The Milkmaid's Fable."