Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Emmanuel's Land #4: Emmanuel Music

The parish conference ended Saturday evening. It was, for me personally, a very moving and reassuring experience. After years of sickness and isolation it was a warm reassurance that there is a society of interesting and responsible people, and that they were willing to welcome me among them. Some I had already come to know and others were new friends; while I suppose it was only a formality there was something about the all parish nature of this conference that has allowed me to feel one with them.

I, and perhaps others, were looking forward to the next morning's service to cap off the weekend. Alas, we woke to snow! Quite a bit of it. I walk the few blocks to the church, so a snow fall isn't any hinderance to me, but many folks, including our wonderful musicians come from far, outside the city, even out of state, New hampshire and Rhode Island. The attendance was small, and only 5 of the choir were there.

We are, many of us, at Emmanuel because of Emmanuel Music. What happens when this glorious focus has been hobbled by bad weather? The voices of these few amazing professionals were up to the task. The five of them performed the Monteverdi motet with as much strength as a full choir, and this despite the absence of the trium. I don't know what magic they and Michael Beatty used to pull this off.

Mr. Beatty made an announcement that they intended to have the congregation join in the choral of the cantata in English after the German, and zeroxes of the music were distributed. let me be clear that I for one couldn't even tell which way to hold this sheet, much to my embarrassment.

In due course the orchestra came in; complete, as it turned out, and they performed Bach's Cantata BWV 32. An exquisite piece, performed with an odd intensity, the kind of precious intimacy that we are blessed with during snow storms. They finished the choral in german and then Mr. Beatty turned to conduct us in the same choral in English. We expected to sing, of course. I, at least, did not expect the conductor to conduct us just as though we were one with these musicians; as part of this group that I actually hold in awe. It was a moment of glory, of intimacy, and of spiritual inclusion that was just extraordinary.

As if I was not keyed up enough, Nancy Granert's postlude was by Buxtehude, which always brings the Mad Genius close to me.

I saw Mr. Beatty afterward in the parish hall. I told him how moved I was by the experience, and made some lame statement about my inability to sing and read music. He said to me that those things make no difference, we were all there to worship together whatever our abilities, it was joining in that mattered.

At one time I would have thought of making a statement about sincerely acting on the message of Christ. I have learned, however, as I travel along this spiritual journey that those "Christian messages" are the messages Christ was teaching from his faith as a Jew. They obtain, in fact, in all walks toward God. holding them, and implementing them is hard. Most interesting is the part about humility. I have had the privilege in my life of knowing some masterfully accomplished people, and I have always found that the greater the intellect, the greater the talent, the greater was the humility. Rigorous pursuit of any discipline is very humbling. Mr Beatty's simple welcome in his remark to me, the musicians familiar presence in the life of the parish, the sincerity of their worship are all, for me, the surest sign of their genius.

"The kingdom of the Father is all around you." and we glimpsed it again on Sunday Morning. 

Emmanuel's Land

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