Friday, July 01, 2005


Back in May, a close friend and member of our parish choir was diagnosed with a fast and deadly illness. Over the weeks, the news has gotten more grim, and last week word came that perhaps her death would come sooner than later.

So more than half the choir gathered last night in her daughter's home, and all of us sang together with our friend. The day was muggy, hot and hazey, and gathering that many folk in a living room raised the heat even more -- do choir's put out more hot air than those who merely talk?

We sang a hymn from each season of the liturgical year, skipping Lent -- Lord forgive us, but our friend has been through a long period of Lent the past few months. And then she chose a few, and then others picked favorites. Our friend has been a central figure in the choir. Many years ago, when partner and I joined, she immediately welcomed us into the choir and made us feel connected. She did that for many others.

She has already said that if she dies while we are in England that they can put her urn in the Rector's closet and bring it out for a funeral when we get back home. It was suggested perhaps that her family could have a small funeral and then we would sing a concert in her honor, but she said that she had lots of friends who would only come once, and she wanted them to come and hear the choir and to understand what she loved so much about our parish.

Without piano or other accompanying instrument, we sang away last night in her daughter's living room. I don't know that we were trying to avoid singing about death -- it comes up in many hymns and we sang them. A couple seemed particularly appropriate:

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens;
Lord, with me abide:
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's dark sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Words: Henry Francis Lyte, 1847

And then there was this favorite for folk who sing together regularly as part of worship:
When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried Alleluia!

How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound Alleluia!

So has the Church, in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue, Alleluia!

And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night
when utmost evil strove against the Light?
Then let us sing, for whom he won the fight, Alleluia!

Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always Alleluia! Amen.

Words: Fred Pratt Green
Hymn singing has always been an important part of our choir. On weekday rehearsals, we warm-up by singing in parts the next service's hymns, and we also sing through them during our before-service rehearsals. We've sang through the hymnal a couple of times for England trips fundraising. Last year, Dr. Messina started dropping the organ out during the middle verses of communion hymns as the choir sings in parts, something he was afraid would sound "cheesey" but has actually become an accepted part of our weekly worship.

So last night we sang with our friend, once again wading into the stream of music together. And we finished by singing together Durufle's setting of Ubi Caritas.
Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.
Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.

Esultemus et in ipso jucundemur.
Time amus et amemus Deun vivum.
Et ex corde dili gamus nos sincero
Et ex corde dili gamus nos sincero, sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est. Amen.

Where true charity and love are, God is there.
The love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and delight in Him.

Let us fear and love the living God,
And let us honour Him with a sincere heart.
Where true charity and love are, God is there. Amen


Hugh said...

Beautiful, just beautiful.

Emily said...

"Those who sing, pray twice." I think it was more than twice for all of you.

lemming said...

(wipes away tears)