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”