Making Melody to the Lord: Pianist Wael Farouk

The hand of the Lord has been evident in Wael Farouk’s life from his childhood in Cairo to today as the first pianist ever to perform all ninety-eight of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s solo piano compositions within six months. That’s similar to an actor performing all of Shakespeare’s plays in one season, he says. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that he was once told he could never play the Russian composer’s music because his hands could not be straightened or even made into a fist. Yet the thirty-three-year-old has performed in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. He also accompanies worship at his home church, Grace OPC in Hanover Park, Illinois. Wael’s story begins as a two-and-a-half-year-old who couldn’t hold things in his hands in a normal way because of his shortened ligaments. To help strengthen Wael’s hands, a doctor urged his father to help him exercise his fingers. His father’s gift of a toy piano on his third birthday changed his life. Wael’s love of music was ... Read more

A Jazz Pianist Playing for the Glory of God

Music became both Pamela York’s vocation and her introduction to Christ. She played in her high school band with the sons of a Christian Reformed Church pastor, and she began playing piano in their church even before taking membership vows at age 20. Now she accompanies worship at Providence OPC in Kingwood (Houston), Texas, where her husband, Adam, is the pastor. But her vocational music is very different from Trinity Hymnal. A jazz pianist, she discovered improv as a ten-year-old, when a musical family moved into her neighborhood in Nanaimo, British Columbia. They took her to open-mic country jam sessions, where she had to “rise to the occasion and follow songs by ear.” She now plays jazz piano around the Houston area and tours occasionally in the U.S. and Canada. She has recorded albums and has a Pandora station. Her repertoire is a mix of hymns, spirituals, and her own compositions. She is also a homeschooling mom to Anna, 11, and Jonathan, 5. These roles can leave her feeling ... Read more

The Opera and Orchestral Music

When the editor asked me if I wished to write on the value of listening to and attending the opera, or of listening to and attending the symphony orchestra, I felt as if he had asked a gourmand to write about food. I readily agreed and was delighted at the prospect! I like music in a variety of genres, but, for me, there is nothing quite like opera or the orchestra. I should note that I exclude from this evaluation the music of the church, which holds a unique place in my heart and life, as I trust it does in the life of many of you. But outside the music of the church, there is so much music that one may sample, so why should I bother to make a case for opera and orchestral music? My case is not that one should listen only to that, but rather that there should be some significant place for this vast landscape of music in what you listen to outside of church. I do this in the full recognition that many people do not listen to such music at all, and I would challenge you that failure ever to listen to ... Read more

Expressing One’s Faith as a Christian Artist

Discovering the Reformed faith gave Mike Mahon the freedom to pursue his calling as a landscape and portrait painter. He began studying fine arts at Texas Tech University in the late 1960s. But he quickly became disillusioned because “all anybody was interested in doing was making philosophical or political statements.” Also, most artists embraced abstract art and dismissed traditional painting and concepts of beauty. Mahon, an agnostic at the time, felt he had no particular agenda: “I just wanted to do beautiful artwork.” He switched his major to design and illustration, where he found the drawing and painting studies more serious, and went on to a commercial art career. Shortly after college, Mahon and his wife, Cynthia, joined a Bible study. The group was dispensationalist, but one member became a Calvinist and kept pressing the issue. Things got so tense that the Calvinist was told he had to leave. But “within six months, we were all Calvinists,” Mahon said. The group sought ... Read more

From Painter to Pastor

“Oh, do you still make art?” Kind people commonly ask that when they hear I am now a pastor, but have a degree in painting. The easy answer is, “Not much, these days.” The implication, that a pastor’s life is busy—who has time to break out the acrylics?—is true enough. The conclusion that my being a pastor is unrelated to art, however, is false. The longer answer, which I don’t always inflict on people, is that there is a clear logic to God’s calling me from painter to pastor. When I was an unbeliever, I desperately longed to be ravished by beauty. Making art was a diagnostic tool to find a beauty that would satisfy the eye, the mind, and the heart. Struggling to create a painting was an immersion of the bodily senses in color, shape, texture, line, and space, but also a pursuit of something bigger than myself. It offered purpose and hope. Of course, art utterly failed me. But it worked according to its intended limitations. There was too much ugliness in me (never mind ... Read more


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