Last night, I sang many of the chorus songs in George Frideric Handel’s Messiah.
We have likely all heard the “Hallelujah” chorus, and I hope we have felt the exultant joy of “For Unto Us a Child is Born.”
I, too, had heard the well-known pieces and loved them for a long time. But the entirety of the Messiah is long…and it’s a little exhausting to listen to.
But a bit ago, I heard an announcement about a community choir that would be singing selections from the Messiah in preparation for Easter. Each year, I try to do something to focus my attention on the Savior at Easter. Don’t worry, I’m not commercialized with the Easter Bunny (but I do still love me some Cadbury Eggs and Starbust Jellybeans), I just get a little distracted and unfocused from time to time. I often need to take time to be a little more holy. I thought maybe this could be my “thing” this year. And not just go listen to the Messiah, but…be in it.
I am not a trained singer, so my professionally trained singing friends will probably choke that I even thought I could do something so challenging.
But the Midvale Community Choir lovingly invited all to participate, and so off to choir practice I went. I luckily knew a few people there and then asked my sister to join me as well because she actually knows how to sing, and I knew she’d be a great contribution. The community has done this for 33 years, and they had many people who had performed for many of those years. Learning my part was a little easier with some very talented people by my side.
The choir practices were insane! But efficient. As I started to learn the songs, the words began to echo in my mind and my heart over the weeks.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
His yoke is easy, and His burden is light
Behold the Lamb of God
Surely He hath born our griefs
He is the king of glory
The Lord of hosts
And He shall reign forever and ever
Blessing and honour, glory and pow’r be unto Him, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb.
The scriptures so beautiful to read became beautiful to sing. I listened to my little alto part in the car and sang along loudly on my drive in to work (I hope people were watching so I could cheer up their day with my little dose of crazy). And the words kept echoing. My praise-filled heart began to comfort my untrained voice.
I pondered on an experience of a few weeks ago. I had volunteered to play the piano at the Jordan River Temple Open House. I’m not that great of a pianist (remember this post?) but I enjoy it. The lady playing before me did a lovely job. The lady after me began in without music even in front of her. And I, I just played what I could…with my music in front of me. And I messed up a lot. And I messed up more than in my private practice because I got nervous because #people. As I played, the first thoughts that came to my head were, “Why did I sign up? Why didn’t I just let other more talented people do this?”
And then, a change of thought. I thought about where I was. On the grounds of the temple. And I thought about how we are all asked to bring our best. To bring our own sacrifice. To bring what we have to give. Whether it be turtledoves or a lamb, we bring what we are able to bring. And if we bring it with our hearts, it is acceptable to God.
That’s how I felt about singing in the Messiah. I know I am not a great singer. I know that others could do better than I. I know that I messed up (and in one place I even started when I wasn’t supposed to…ugh). I know that in some parts I just stopped singing because I was lost in the Hallelujahs and the Amens. But many voices are needed for a choir to be a choir. So I took my heart with me and that was what mattered. And my heart needed it so, so much. I needed to hear the words of faith and hope and redemption. And comfort. The first words in the whole performance… “Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people.” Thankfully I heard that the first time in a rehearsal so the tears could fall then.
Near the end, a bass soloist sang words that stood out to me, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be chang’d in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” And then… the trumpet solo…and the bass soloist. It is all true. Christ has risen. He has come. I don’t understand it all. But I know that my redeemer liveth. And our God accepts what we have to give. Indeed, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” I may not always feel that, but the music is in my soul.
King of kings. And lord of lords.
Forever. And ever.