Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren

A couple of Sundays ago, the chorus of Emmanuel Music sang a motet “Der Herr denket an uns,” which is #9 in Johann Hermann Schein’s “Israels Brünnlein” collection, or whatever it’s called by people who know these things.  The text is from Psalm 115, verses 12-15.   I sat there in my usual spot, soaking up the beauty in my usual way – not following along in the program but just watching the singers, players, and John Harbison’s conducting dance.  And listening.  Listening with a ferocious desire for bigger ears so I could take in this miracle of sound that we call music.  I’ve heard that the ears continue to grow throughout one’s life; what a great place for this wish to be coming true!

As I sat there imagining myself floating in a pool of shimmering sound, the sound suddenly stopped.  I snapped back to attention to see John’s hands hovering in the air, then cueing the players and singers to their next entry point.  I looked down at the program to see where they were and, to my delight, they were repeating the line again:  “Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren” or in English “You are the blessed of the Lord.”  The pauses between the lines were long enough to create, in me anyway, an intense feeling of leaning forward, anticipating, feeling that pull of “What’s next?”  The silence of the pauses was, as I suppose musicians already know, a kind of music in itself.

This line, “Ihr Seid die Gesegneten des Herren” was repeated at least three times when I heard it.  In the recording I found, it’s repeated six times.  So maybe that’s how EMI performed it, but I honestly can’t remember because I was so completely transported I lost count.  I found myself scooping up these silences like prized stones found on a beach, filling my hands and pockets with them.  And it is these silences that are most vivid in my memory of this event.

I’m still floating on this little musical offering, two weeks later.  Thanks to my local library, I found a collection of the “Israels Brünnlein” that has this little gem in it, so you can hear it at the end of this entry.  The repetitions of this phrase and the accompanying pauses start at about 2:20.  I don’t expect the recording to have exactly the same rapturous effects as my hearing it live did.  For one, what you don’t get to see when you listen to a recording is the relationship between conductor, players and singers.  This was particularly delightful to see during these pauses – the intensity of the waiting, the anticipation, the alertness, the readiness, the commitment to the next measure.  Goosebumps.

It’s easy to feel like “the blessed of the Lord” when music like this is echoing around in my brain.  Plus, today is Mother’s Day, and I always feel particularly blessed on this day.  I’m blessed to have an incredibly brave, resilient mother who has accompanied me through various bumps, blind curves, hairpin turns, and occasionally goofy or heart-stopping rides in life’s clown car.  I’m blessed to be a mother of three extraordinary daughters – two of whom I inherited when PW and I combined our lives and our families and one of whom chose me to escort her into this life.  These three have been such a blessing to me that I can barely remember what life was like without them.  I know I lived before I knew them, but that past is dim, blurred, and flatter.  I’m also blessed to get to mother with the woman whose mothering – and whose children – convinced me that I could be a mother, too.

Johann Hermann Schein created the “Israels Brünnlein” in 1623, but the need to hear “Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren” over and over is as keen now as it was then.  Each brief and ballistic pause reminds me of more ways that I’m blessed.  Imagine living every moment of every day with this feeling of blessedness woven into every fiber of our being.  Mother’s Day is as good a day as any to begin living this way.  Even if you’re not a mother, you have a mother, or you have people who have mothered you, or you have people or creatures or ideas or dreams that you care for as a mother.

Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Manfred Cordes conducting Weser -Renaissance Bremen in Johann Hermann Schein’s “Der Herr denket an uns” from “Israels Brünnlein”


12 responses to “Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren

  1. This is spine tingling just on its own. I hope you will share it will the musicians. Thanks.

  2. Richard Howard

    How blessed I was during the third week of April on witnessing you ahd SweetP mother your children in my home. To listen now to such inspiring music after reading your sublime Mothers’ Day post is to re-live some of those moments shared with you back in April. Again, your spine-tingling prose is sheer poetry to my aging but still youthful soul!
    Love to you, and to all of you, from somewhere down inside myself.

  3. Not just anyone’s writing or thinking can move me to tears, but yours always does. I hope you had a fabulous Mother’s Day.
    Thanks for sharing the lovely music and your amazing thoughts
    in such extraordinary images. (Love the stones on the beach!)
    You continue to make me think and to tug at my heartstrings. Thanks.

  4. Bill Bird Jr.

    Funny…my life before Wife is starting to blur. I just thought it was me.

  5. Thank you so much for the passion and insight of this post – as a musician it is terribly touching. It means so much to a composer to know that there is someone listening who wishes for “bigger ears” in the way you describe. Makes me want to keep on trying to give you an earful!

    • James, the mere thought of getting more earfuls (earsfull?) of your music gave me whole body goosebumps just now. I’ve been reading about your collaboration with Susan Stewart with immense envy for anyone who has gotten to hear it.

      For what it’s worth, I’m getting a little fix of you by listening to your “Meditation on What Wondrous Love is This?” And somewhere in my house, I think, is the recording of the EMI performance of “spiraling ecstatically” from Pam’s installation ceremony. I might have to stop everything and look for it. Great to hear from you! And yes, more earsfull of your music, please!!

      • Thank you so much for your note, Joy.

        There are samples of my stuff – including excerpts from “Songs for Adam” and “Holy the Firm” that set Susan Stewart poetry – at:

        Also an Emmanuel motet called “One Thing I Know” on a text by Anne Porter.

        I’m working on/thinking about two new motets, one on Thomas Merton, the other on John O’Donahue – we’ll see what happens (once I get text permissions…)

        Love to all my Emmanuel family.

  6. barbara howard

    Dear Joy, I responded before but I guess I have much to learn, but I read this again today after forwarding to some of my musician friends. I’ve known you since you took your first breath and Dr. Jonas handed you to me. Since there was no anesthesia,your were pink and beautiful,your blue eyes shining. We walked out of the delivery room with me carrying you and Dr. Jonas smiling with such delight. From that day until this very moment you have been joy in my life. We named you so properly! Indeed you are beloved by the Lord and by your mom with an everlasting love! Mom

    • My mama! Thank you for loving me into this world every single breath of my life, since before I could breathe. You are the most extraordinary woman I know.
      Big good love,

  7. My goodness, you made me cry : ) I love you so much and am so lucky to have you on my incredible team of mothers. Thank you for being so wonderful and loving.

  8. Pingback: Thursday night sublime and ridiculous « Secret Geometry – James Primosch's blog

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