Seeds

An entranced audience;- it was almost as if they ‘d agreed to co-ordinate their breathing as the tenor (Chris), sang the familiar strains of “O Holy Night,” with liquid voice, sustaining the notes and seemingly barely taking a breath. When the crescendo approached, there was palpable tension in the room, as the audience anticipated the high note. Would he embrace it  – or glide by?  Of course, Chris’ voice soared, with a deceptive ease, and we all were filled with joy, triumph and hope. 

Deafening applause!

We were in South Carolina, celebrating one of the rare gifts of the tragedy that is Covid, and the delights of seeds sown long ago that are rhapsodically blooming. Let me explain, it’s many years since Chris directed an impressive high school choir  – in El Paso, Texas.  In a scant three years the choir grew exponentially, won acclaim, and many members were selected for the All State Choir. (The only high school in El Paso to achieve this, at that time.)  Many lives were touched and some changed by the choir, including Jeremy’s.  As a senior, he switched allegiances from orchestra to chorus and launched a pre-eminent musical career. Dr. Jeremy now is Professor of Music at Winthrop University where, alongside teaching, he conducts many highly respected ensembles and choruses. In his “spare” time, (how does he have any,) he is Music Director for a  church. (Lucky church!)  Other than the “odd” Facebook sighting, Chris and Jeremy lost touch over the years.  As you may recall from a previous post, during an earlier Covid surge, Chris joined Jeremy, (and multi-talented partner, Craig’s)  virtual choir. He learned the inner mysteries of virtual choirs and with another Music Director Jim, launched a “Zoom” choir for a  Massachusetts church. As a bonus, this choir included overseas singers.

Many seeds sown, many blossoms, many musical blessings.

Jeremy, Chris, Craig:  The Three Tenors?

But I digress!

During Christmas, 2020, most avoided in-person events, so Jeremy’s church presented a virtual Christmas concert, inviting Chris and others to participate. In the almost pre-Omicron days of early December, this year’s Christmas concert was “live” – and, as you heard, Chris was exquisite singing, “O Holy Night.”  I noticed something in the performance that has always eluded me. Many of us deceive ourselves that we know the words.  A lot of “O Night Divines,” and “Stars are brightly shinings,” surely.  We get lulled by the rising cadences, and then we are nervous in anticipation of the high note, so we don’t catch the carol’s message of social justice.

“Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,

And, in his name, all oppression shall cease.”

To my ear, the words now sound somewhat patronizing, nonetheless I have to admire the sentiment, written in France in 1847, based on an earlier poem, before France, let alone the US, had outlawed slavery. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Recently, we lost one of the modern legends of social justice, Desmond Tutu. Born to a poor South African family, he somehow gained an education and trained as a teacher.  Discovering that the white government decreed a curriculum for black students designed to reinforce their oppression, he resigned and retrained as an Anglican minister. Tutu became Archbishop of Cape Town, and the President of the All African Conference of Churches – the first black person to hold these offices. All the while, he courageously condemned South Africa’s system of apartheid,  white majority rule protected by the constitution. Tutu challenged the international community to pressurize the South African government to reform.  After years of bloody struggle, the apartheid system was dismantled, and Nelson Mandela rose to power appointing Tutu to chair the Commission to promote Truth and Reconciliation. I don’t know if, as I did, you listened to any of the broadcasts of these hearings. They broke my heart – and Tutu’s. Having heard a particularly harrowing account, Tutu famously broke down.  He vowed to try not to do so again, because his tears detracted from the victim, who never previously had been respected enough to be heard. It stuns me how Mandela and Tutu and others, guided the nation down the path of truth and reconciliation – of moving toward forgiving without forgetting, and avoiding the bloodbath of revenge and retribution. Sad to say, the situation in South Africa has again deteriorated. Perhaps some of Tutu’s many seeds will blossom and new leaders emerge who will reset the course for social justice.

And what of us in 2022?  “O Holy Night” reminds us that even in a “weary world” there’s “a thrill of hope.”. 

 Let’s sow some seeds!

End Notes

Reading

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater
TadeThompson
(This is science fiction, not my usual preferred genre, if it’s yours, it’s the first of a trilogy)

 

 

Listening

Song to the Siren
Tim Buckley

The Work of Christmas
by Howard Thurmam
Soloist Dan Forrest

Viewing

Invictus

Poetry

Dear Poet 2019
Alberto Rios

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