First Baptist Church’s sanctuary was dimly lit on Friday as audience members filed into the church building. Psallos brought a diverse crowd: Union students, alumni, community members, professors and musicians filled the pews surrounding the stage, loomed over by the church’s giant organ.
Long beards were sprinkled throughout the crowd, which was dressed almost formally. Suit coats, colored jeans and flannel shirts were everywhere. It was a collision of the trendy and the respectable. The stage was littered with instruments.
After the crowd excitedly spoke, laughed and hugged, the band entered the room, most dressed in black, all in grayscale. Psallos has 14 members, and they covered the stage.
Cody Curtis, composer and director, introduced Psallos and spoke on their vision.
“The main purpose of writing this was to instruct [us] on the righteousness of God,” Curtis said.
The album Psallos performed is called Romans. It is a devotional expression of the entire book of Romans. The album has no breaks between tracks, and the music continues without any interruption. The continuous musical exploration of Romans has only one intermission.
“The themes of scripture are the themes of Romans, just focused and crystallized into a small, literary microcosm,” Curtis said.
The stage was separated into two sections. Stage right was filled with classic orchestral instruments, like the flute and the violin. Stage left had the drums, an electric guitar and an electric bass. The stage’s two halves, the symphonic and the contemporary, were brought to center by a harmonium.
The diverse array of instruments were played by a changing group of people. It was acrobatic. Curtis ran from standing in front of the whole band conducting to the piano to play accompaniment. Rob Griffith played the piano, the electric guitar and a cymbal at one point. Thomas Griffith, one of the two lead vocalists, played the mandolin, the guitar, the harmonium and the piano. They ran back and forth on the stage, dodging cords and navigating around performers.
Perhaps the most impressive acrobatics, however, were done by Kelsey Edgren’s voice which jumped from traditional singing to near-rap seamlessly.
The music was ambitious, switching genres constantly. The band played folk, traditional sounding orchestral pieces and even used what seemed to be a polka beat. The genre changed to fit the book. The lyrics were displayed on the screen along with relevant narration and passages from Romans, and as the apostle Paul wrote from damnation to salvation, so did the music burst from mourning to joy.
The audience held diverse reactions. Some opened their bibles and followed along with the book, reading through music. Others sung along. Still more wept. Most of the audience sat in rapt silence, reverently attentive.
The audience did not keep this solemnity when Psallos stopped playing. The band received a standing ovation both at the intermission and after the entire performance.