Monday, November 10, 2008

Lux Arumque

warm and heavy as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the new-born baby.

Monday nights are rehearsal nights most weeks. I began singing with the Memphis Chamber Choir almost two years ago. I had been to their Festival of Lessons and Carols and felt transported by the experience. Then a friend introduced me to the director, and Geoff's enthusiasm for not just music, but for worship, created a connection with me, and I auditioned and started singing.

(I had sung before with the symphony chorus, and the Rhodes Mastersingers chorus, and both were wonderful experiences. But I like being with a smaller group, offering music at no charge, and singing the music in the church setting it was written for, not as a performance for an audience of people, but as an offering to the ears of the One who is the subject of most of the pieces we sing.)

So, week after week we meet and sing. And sing, and sing. It's always enjoyable, sometimes tiring, and every now and then soul-stirring.

Tonight we began work on "Lux Arumque" by Eric Whitacre, a song with a somewhat odd history. It began as a poem (above) written in English by a poet named Edward Esch. Whitacre liked the poem and asked his poet friend Charles Silvestri to translate it to Latin.

I didn't know anyone other than students translated from English to Latin, but he does, and so then Whitacre set the Latin text to music. And the result is a feast for the ears, the imagination, and the soul.

It's easy to find and listen to via Youtube, by the way, if you want to.

Of course we just began it tonight, so it wasn't an incredible rendering. But the music itself, even mediocrely sung, is so lovely, and it just hangs in the air so that everything feels exceedingly alive, even when we're only holding out a chord.

And it just hit me at one moment tonight how absolutely amazing this thing we call singing is. I sat there with my eyes closed and could feel the air vibrating all around me, and I knew that it was all was being transformed into this beautiful sound....and somehow that was coming from the bodies of these human beings all around me. We just move our lungs and throats and mouths in certain ways, and the very air changes. And every human being is born with the ability to do this.

And when you add the metaphoric heart to the literal lungs and all, this music has the ability to join heaven and earth, as my friend from the previous post put it.

So, I just sat there thinking all this in the space of a measure of music, doing my little part to add to this amazing music and feeling blest that I can.

And for a moment, the light felt gold.


Carisse said...

So sweet. We are working on John Rutter's "There is a Flower," among others, in the Abilene Classical Chorus, and it shimmers that way.

Sheila said...

Oh, good, Carisse. I'm glad you are singing somewhere.

Benito said...

In the mid 1980s, a young Benito sang with the Memphis Symphony Boys Choir. It contributed a lot to my love of foreign languages, as we got to sing in Latin, French, and German.

Alas, I didn't keep up with the singing after the inevitable voice change. I miss it at times, but it's still fun to enjoy as a spectator...

Lucy said...

How wonderful! I'm getting odd Christmassy feelings from time to time now, this brought on another. I'm going to look for the Eric Whiteacre on youtube.