Tag Archives: goosebumps

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”

“the soprano sings an intimate and gracious air punctuated by surprising unison choral outbursts”

I have so many shout-outs today, it occurs to me that maybe I should start a tradition of Shout-out Sunday here at The Crooked Line.

First, to my beloved friends from college, Martin & Heather, who are creating something wild and wonderful down in the Texas Hill Country: Madroño Ranch, A Center for Writing and the Environment. If creativity and the environment are the least bit interesting or important to you, their blog needs to be on your reading list.

Reading Heather’s blog post yesterday inspired the post I wrote here yesterday on grief, and it’s still weaving its way in and around and through my grey matter.  One of the persistent wonderings I’ve had since reading Heather’s essay about time and creativity and memory was around the possibility of being able to feel time as we’re moving through it.  As a former swimmer, I love the feel of being in water and how the texture of water changes.  Swimming in lakes in New England in the springtime, on a sunny day, the top foot or so of the water can be warm, and sometimes even feels thick in its warmth.  But if you go vertical, you find that there is a very cold, dark, sharp layer of water below.  At least that’s how it feels to me.

It occurred to me last night that music is one way that I feel myself swimming through time.  I love all different kinds of music, which is probably apparent if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, or if I’ve imposed one of my CD mixes on you.  My music appreciation has a whole new gear since my wife PW started working at this church a couple of years ago.  For most of the year, except the summertime, some grouping of singers and musicians from Emmanuel Music provides a couple of musical offerings every Sunday.  For me, this means that nearly every Sunday, I have a goosebump experience.

The title of today’s post comes from Michael Beattie’s always-evocative program notes for today’s anthem, Handel’s Chandos Anthem 7, “My Song Shall Be Alway.”  So picture this.  I usually sit in the third row of the church, just to the right of the center aisle.  I like being this close because if I’m really quiet in my head, and if no one is talking to me, I can hear sharp inhales and exhales of the musicians, I can hear the keys being pressed on the oboe, plus all the wonderful sounds of the instruments and voices blending together.  Anyway, today I was sitting there, and while I usually try not to distract myself by looking at the bulletin during the music, sometimes I can’t help it.  And there was some point during the lovely soprano solo today when I wanted to see how the program notes described it.  I found the weaving together of the soprano’s voice and the oboe, and Michael’s dancy conducting, to be particularly time-swimmy.  So I looked down at the notes, and I just as I was reading this line “the soprano sings an intimate and gracious air punctuated by surprising unison choral outbursts,” I was enveloped in one such surprising “choral outburst” and waves of goosebumps shot up my spine and engulfed my head.

I feel unbelievably lucky to hear extraordinary live music on such a regular basis, and even when the music itself doesn’t bring goosebumps, often just watching and hearing how the ensemble, conductor and chorus are working together will result in goosebumps.  Even when I’m just not feeling the music on a particular day, the luxury of watching the ensemble, conductor and chorus swim through time is inviting in and of itself, and the next thing I know, I’m doing a figurative cannonball into the pool and I’m in there with them.

Finally, completing the kick-butt church day today (“kick-butt” is a high compliment in my family of origin), one of our newer parishioners, the Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew, took the tricky pitch of the virulently anti-Semitic gospel reading for today and basically hit it over the Green Monster onto the Mass Pike.  I love hearing really great preaching and teaching on a reliable basis.  Another reason I love sitting up in the front is because when a particularly good sermon — like today’s — is concluded, I usually hear at least one whispered “Wow” coming from behind me.  Today there were several such murmurs.

That’s it for my first Shout-out Sunday.  Since it’s been such a Heavenly Day, I’ll let Patty Griffin take us out with that very song: