World famous songwriter/composer/arranger/conductor John Rutter writes beautiful Christmas music. For many decades his pieces have been performed in churches around the world. The following piece is one popular sample:
There’s just one problem: From all that I have heard and read about the man, Rutter does not claim to be a Christian, although he is not considered to be an atheist. About ten years ago, my daughter was honored to be among a group of high school choir singers who were flown to New York City to participate in a nationwide youth choir festival. One of the lead conductors was John Rutter. During a break period my daughter, not one to be shy about sharing her faith in Christ, went right up to Rutter and asked him if he was a Christian. His response to her was to the effect, “Well, I grew up in the church.”
Listen to this brief excerpt from a Minnesota Public Radio interview:
“John Rutter: What Sweeter Music
by John Birge, Minnesota Public Radio
December 9, 2009
For their Welcome Christmas concerts this weekend, VocalEssence sings a tribute to the English composer John Rutter. One of his most beloved Christmas carols, “What Sweeter Music,” became famous in America when it was used in a Volvo television commercial. Rutter told Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s John Birge that it almost didn’t happen.
St. Paul, Minn. — For a composer who has created some of the most eloquent Christmas music, it may come as a surprise to learn that Rutter himself is not a believer, at least in the conventional sense. In that, he allies himself with another great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, who said “I’m agnostic, but I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for Christianity. It’s given me my values, and a strong sense of faith. But I’m a fellow traveler rather than a believer. ” But Rutter says that the Anglican Church remains central to his being: In 2002, Rutter’s 19 year-old son died in an automobile accident. While Rutter’s grief temporarily interrupted his composing, he retained his faith in the gift of life.”
Is it possible for an unbeliever to produce “Christian” music, music that will uplift true believers, music whose words can be honoring to God, music whose words may even lead one to Christ and salvation? What do you think?