#87 – Ode to Joy

Cradled in a safe space…Enveloped in a familiar joy…Transported to marvelous destinations I already know….How else can I describe my musical journey of the past weekend?

Messiah-2018-12-08First of all, Handel’s Messiah. Why does the excitement build each year as I anticipate going to the Centre in the Square to be enfolded by 120 voices from the Grand Philharmonic Choir, plus members of the K-W Symphony and soloists?

I keep pondering why this oratorio is such a must for me. The first notes of the overture and the words “comfort ye” from the tenor soloist do indeed transport me to a marvelous place I already claim.  I land back in the concert hall two and a half hours later, as the full-voice choir sings “Worthy is the lamb that was slain” with the long amen.

In the meantime, I wait for the solos “Behold a virgin shall conceive,”  “I know that my Redeemer lives,” and “The trumpet shall sound.” I hear echoes of various budding soloists from my past while listening to the accomplished ones on tonight’s stage.

I listen in expectation for the choruses “For unto us a child is born,”  “His yoke is easy and his burden is light,” and of course the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Each year I remember a snowy December night when I was in London on church business, and made the unwise decision to drive home. Furthermore, I decided to take the “back way” which I usually drove between London and Kitchener, consisting of rural roads with little traffic.

I had the CD The Gift of Messiah  with me that night.  The music in the car and the barn lights along the way somehow cradled me in a safe space and got me home….

Incarnation-2018-12-09Incarnation: Menno Singers. One other musical experience also defined last weekend for me – Incarnation, brought to us by the 50-voice Menno Singers choir. Here we were cradled in the sanctuary of an old downtown church, surrounded by gorgeous sound, whether a cappella voices or organ accompaniment.

Since it was a lessons and carols service, we sang five hymns throughout the afternoon. I loved the experience of being rocked and held by music even while participating in the music making. A headline in Monday’s Globe and Mail proclaimed “Odes to Joy: Researchers study the uplifting power of singing.” And I thought: I do believe Mennonite congregations and choirs of all sorts have known this for a long time!

I loved so many things about the Menno Singers approach, including their use of two composers from within the choir, as well as readers and soloists from the choir, as well as another well-known local composer.

I enjoyed hearing again some familiar lilting music from my childhood in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 60s, including old carols at the manger arranged by Alice Parker.

I relished being at the first Menno Singers event following the recent death of Abner Martin, the choir’s founder in 1955 and conductor for 20 years.

And – there’s lots of Advent music still to come. I’m looking forward to  Advent Jazz at Conrad Grebel University College; three more worship services at Rockway Mennonite Church; and – of great importance! – our annual Children’s Christmas Pageant.

Oh the joy!

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Which annual Advent music presentations – if any – are you unable to do without?
  2. How does the music of Advent nourish your spirit?

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