is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Speak, O Lord.

Another glorious Sunday is slinking over the horizon. I sang this morning with my wonderful choir during the late worship service.  We sang one of my "bucket songs," Speak O Lord.  I draw a bucket in the corner of the songs  I want sung when I leave this Life, and this anthem has not only a bucket, but a dancing bucket, and a Christmas tree, and a smiley face with a Laura Petri flip.  I used to wear my brunette hair in a flip like that, so it's a bit of a self-portrait thing.  I don't do this alone; my uber-friend Betty Cecil does the same thing. Hers also has the same set of buckets; and a jack-o-lantern versus a Christmas tree. Heh.  

So, as you may know, I love my Chancel Choir, a group of 51 sweet souls dedicated to singing praises to the Lord every week in the chancel of Central Christian Church, which is the gorgeous church on the corner of M-L King and Short Street in downtown Lexington.  

Our choir is fortunate to have a large and wonderful repertoire of anthems to perform each week - I am sure the number is over 1000 - and we do major works by famous composers every year for Christmas and Easter.  Some of my favorites were written by Vivaldi, John Rutter, Allen Pote,  this year something very special is happening, as we are learning Mozart's Requiem for a Spring performance!   We will have superb soloists and orchestra, it is one of the greatest works of all time.  Most of the Mozart Requiem can be heard in the movie, Amadeus, which won Oscars and is a magnificent film, but the theory that Salieri killed Mozart, and that Salieri finished the Requiem for Mozart is probably not true.  It is, however, a great storyline for a film about Mozart, who did die young, and poor, while writing the Requiem -- I've heard it was while writing the alto part to the Lacrimosa (another bucket song, btw).   

We have performed this work before in conjunction with two other choirs, in 1999, it is delightfully difficult and I'm even learning the alto parts on my ukulele's A string (this is what Mozart does to a soul; he makes you a better singer, a better ukulele player, a better musician. He wrote symphonies when he was just 5 years old!) So needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I cannot express how happy I am to be singing it again.  Yes, it is a Mass for the dead, but it is stunning how the parts are tossed back and forth, how the music repeats itself with different lyrics at the end, and how the orchestra supports the voice parts on tricky passages when needed most.  There are tons of other reasons to have a crush on Mozart, but those are the ones that draw me in at the moment.

So why am I yammering on about all that?  I want to also talk a little here about my writing assignment for the next year.  I will be writing about my choir, about each and every member, a celebratory essay series that will highlight one person per week, and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to whom I will choose to feature, there are absolutely no rules other than for me to celebrate one per week.  Our director, Michael Rintamaa, is completing his 20th year as our Director of Music, and because Michael is just that humble, he wants the celebration to be about the choir, and not about him. So he asked me to undertake an essay-writing gig, and I happily accepted the offer.  There is not one person in my choir that I do not trust implicitly and love unconditionally.  There is not one person in my choir to whom I could not make a plea and they would be ready, able and willing to help me at any time.  (Sorry about that double negative, but you get what I'm squawking about).  This assignment has me busy every week writing about something that I love, about people I love and how music has been a part of their faith formation...and it is opening my eyes in pleasantly unexpected ways that make me glad for good surprises.  It is a ministry of sorts, though, and one to which I am thrilled to be called.  

For this reason, I enjoy my weekends and weeks more and more.  Every Sunday, I consider who I will be covering, I ask questions, I assure them their secrets are safe with me, we talk on the phone, they write their's a good process.  In the past, I have covered a lot of artists here in KimmyVille in same fashion.  I always have tried to find the good in a person and write about that versus being a snarker or a critic.  I'll confess, it's been a challenge at times, to write good things about people that aren't necessarily the nicest folks in the world...but I've been fortunate to blog about some really cool artists who are generous and from whom I've learned some of life's best lessons.  However, again I consider that a ministry as well.  To seek out the joy, find and illuminate the better parts of people, that is something that Jesus would like, I think.  

Back to today's anthem, and worship, and how meaningful Sunday can be to me.  Here are the words to the anthem we sang, arranged by Mary McDonald:

"Speak, O Lord, as we come to You to receive the food of Your Holy Word; Take Your truth, plant it deep in us; shape and fashion us in Your likeness, That the Light of Christ may be seen today in our acts of love and our deeds of faith. Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us all Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience, Holy reverence, true humility; Test our thoughts and our attitudes in the radiance of Your purity.  Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see Your majestic love and authority. Words of pow'r that can never fail, Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds; Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us. Truth unchanged from the dawn of time that will echo down through eternity. And by grace we'll stand on Your promises, And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us. Speak, O Lord, 'til Your Church is built and the earth is filled with Your glory!

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You to receive the truth of Your Holy Word."

Lastly, here is the prayer we shared in worship today:

God of light and life,
open us to your presence in this hour of worship.
We would hear your voice in human words,
We would taste your grace in bread broken and wine poured.
We would touch your guiding hand as you lead us forth, 
a community called, redeemed, renewed to share the good news
and serve your children in the world.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray,

As I said, I love my Choir. I love being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.  I love having a new writing purpose and working with the kind and gentle friends I have in my musical life.  I hope you will share my joy and listen to Mozart sometime this week.  If you are a musician, you already know the value of his music.  If you are not familiar, just know that some say they believe in God because of Mozart's writings. That's how spectacular his compositions are.  I also ask you to believe that your life can change for the better if you live like Jesus, forgive easily, love kindness, give from your heart and embrace your gifts that God has given you...and he has given you gifts, lambchop.  You just need to give them a hug.

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