What Happened on the Hill
When most Americans picture the Balkans we think of the images that have dominated our television screens over the past decade. Concentration camps. Mobs of refugees. Buildings and streets pockmarked by mortar shells (the resulting holes are ironically called "Sarajevo roses" in the local slang). So when Roger Bourland and I set out to write about the power of Faith and Spirituality in modern life, the last place on our minds was Bosnia. But television only tells part of the story.
And as we would learn, there is a village in the mountains of Bosnia that has a way of reaching out to you, no matter how hard you try to ignore it. Friends who heard of our project suggested we write about the reported appearances of the Virgin Mary to six visionaries in that remote parish of Medjugorje. In fact, these friends (Josephine Shiplacoff and her son, Daniel) nagged us persistently until we finally joined a pilgrimage to Medjugorje under the guidance of Paul and Grace Millard of Morningstar Ministries.
What we found in Medjugorje amazed us: an entire community devoted to ministering to the minds, bodies and souls of those seeking union with God and relief from the daily distractions of a world obsessed with materialism. That this peaceful place has survived the active opposition of a Communist regime (when it was a part of Yugoslavia) and the bloody civil war that followed is nothing short of astonishing! Equally moving to us personally was the treatment we received from our fellow pilgrims, who through their many acts of kindness gave vivid proof of their faith in God.
Our own faith in the subject matter was rewarded when Donald Neuen agreed to combine two choruses he directs, the Angeles Chorale and the UCLA Chorale, and conduct the musical drama we eventually wrote and called Rosarium. When four internationally known soloists and the UCLA Philharmonia Orchestra joined the company, Rosarium was performed on June 5, 1999 at Royce Hall in Los Angeles. What Happened on the Hill is the second act of that work, recorded live on the night of the premiere. The first act of Rosarium dramatizes the visitation of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in 1531 and will have to wait for another recording. This CD is intended as a musical companion to the many inspiring accounts of the events at Medjugorje. It is another way to tell the story, if you will, a story of spiritual revival in the midst of destruction that can only be called a modern miracle.
William MacDuff, librettist