Wednesday, December 9, 2009


One small town
Containing more churches than banks,

A ninety year old choral society
With a Christmas tradition of singing Handel’s Messiah,

Sixty-some enthusiastic singers recruited without auditions
Through church bulletin announcements

Farmers, store clerks, machinists, students
Middle schoolers to senior citizens

Gather in an unheated church for six weeks of rehearsal
To perform one man’s great gift to sacred music.

Handel, given a libretto, commissioned to compose,
Isolated himself for 24 days, barely ate or slept

Believed himself confronted by all heaven itself
To see the face of God,

And so created overture, symphony, arias, oratorios
Soaring, interwoven themes repeating, resounding

With despair, mourning, anticipation
Renewal, redemption, restoration, triumph.

Delicate appoggiaturas and melismata
Of astounding complexity and intricacy.

A tapestry of sound and sensation unparalleled
To be shouted from the soul, wrung from the heart.

This group of rural people gathers to join voices
Honoring faith foretold, realized, proclaimed.

Ably led by a forgiving director with a sense of humor
And a nimble organist with flying feet and fingers.

The lilting sopranos with angel song,
The altos provide steadfast support,

The tenors echo plaintive prophecy 
The bass voices full and resonant.

A violinist paints heaven-sent refrain
In parallel duet of counterpoint melody.

The audience sits, eyes closed
As if in oft repeated familiar prayer.

The sanctuary overflows
With thankfulness:

Glory to God! For unto us a Child is born
And all the people, whether singers or listeners,

will be comforted.

A year ago, recovering from a tonsillectomy, I wistfully skimmed over the call for singers.  But this year I joined in, along with several from my church, making up a nearly eighty voice choir, accompanied by a chamber orchestra.

Joy, joy, joy!

Magnified by three attentive faces, in the second row, dutifully following along in the guide I had prepared for them.  And the encouraging smiles radiating up at me every time I looked their way.

I'm hoping to add this to our Christmas traditions.


Deborah said...

What a beautiful post!! I'm glad you were able to sing this year! I was able to absorb the full oratorio last night while the children slept. Hubby arrived home in time for the Halleujah chorus! Definitely one of my favorite parts of Christmas.


leah said...

Absolutely wonderful! I love Handel's Messiah- we went to see it in Thousand Oaks, CA a long time ago- I love the singers from the community. This one is definitely a tradition to keep!

DJP said...

Ah! I'd love to have seen that!