Sunday, March 24, 2013

In Remembrance - Entering Holy Week

As we enter into Holy Week, I would like to share a beautiful piece of choral music with you:
In Remembrance from Requiem by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley.

This time of year can bring a mix of nostalgia, spiritual discomfort, and great rejoicing. To steal and paraphrase a few words from Father Rob's sermon this morning: "I hope you will come and have your feet washed this Maundy Thursday. It might embarass you or make you feel uncomfortable - it's supposed to. I hope you will take an hour out of your time to pray during the Gethsemane Watch. You will probablyt be sleepy. You're supposed to be sleepy. Peter was sleepy." Good points. Should we allow ourselves to emote as well? Of course! How?

For me, Holy Week is usually spring break so my body says STOP & REST, but a different kind of service calls me and makes me excited and ENERGETIC again! I have a job that directly affects people's worship experiences and to some extent what they get out of the services. Sometimes, the repertoire that I bring to the choir and that we bring to the congregation helps people find a kind of release, find a connection with God, or perhaps drag them kicking and screaming to rejoice in the renewal of grace that no one is sure they actually deserve. Whatever the reaction, I am quite sure that times such as Holy Week and Easter poke at and unearth memories and experiences of the past. For many, it is viewed as a sorrowful time of guilt and remembrance of Jesus' death on the cross. For others, it's their one time of the year to show up and socialize with a flowery hat. For still more, it is a roller coaster of cross, prayer, guilt, sorrow, grace, rejoicing, and thankfulness.
I love this setting of "Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep". I conduct it slightly differently, but I love the way it is done here by the Stanford University Chamber Singers.
I programmed this work as an Introit for Easter morning at St. Paul's Episcopal, New Orleans, to be sung from the balcony. My idea is to make a connection with the women who went to Jesus' tomb on the third day and could not find him there. First they are sorrowful and then they are glad. It reminds me to see the Divine in all things and not to grieve. I changed the last line to "I am alive" (so as not to negate the Resurrection - though I suppose in a philosophical way, "I did not die" still works).

The text is the poem  Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
written by Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Here is Daley's choral setting performed by the Stanford University Chamber Singers on YouTube

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