One of the reasons I love choral music so much is its opportunity to be artistic and for its emotional release. Different people have different outlets for their emotions, but for me it’s choral music. There are many times that choral music has affected me throughout my life, but a few stand apart form the rest.
The first time that I can remember choral music bringing me to tears was in high school. We were singing some arrangement of “I Must Tell Jesus” led by the woman who lit and stoked my love for choral music. A classmate had a solo in the song and I remember being so overpowered by her voice, the emotion in her voice, and by the choir’s harmony behind her. The mix of these simple, but beautiful harmonies and the sincere text just touched my heart. In that moment, in Mrs. Dickens’ choir room, I started crying and could not stop. I walked out of the room, got myself together, and started singing again. Every time we sang that song for the rest of the year, I had to swallow down the lump in my throat.
I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate Friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
And in my griefs with me He will blend.
The second time that stands out to me was in college. I was sitting next to my friend Corey at a Cantus concert. They were singing a song called “Last Letter Home.” It’s a song that is a setting of a soldier’s last letter home to his wife. He says lots of beautiful poetic things. Things to comfort her and courage her in the years ahead. I encourage you to look at the entire lyrics and story of the song, but my favorites from the whole song are these:
“Go outside and look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.”
In his last moments he chooses to remind her to find joy in the little things. Needless to say, Corey and I were both sobbing by the end of the song. I found an emotional release, not just in the song, but by relishing in this moment with a friend who shared my passion for choral music.
There were a few other times in college that I won’t recount in detail here. I will link videos to them below so that if you want to have your own little cry-fest you can go right ahead.
When David Heard – This is a long one, but the story behind it and the power of the actual music itself was on of the most, if not the most, moving pieces I did in college choir. It was also one of the most difficult pieces I think I’ve ever sung. I’ve linked a recording that is also a video with the music and the lyrics so you can read along. Yay me! 🙂
One of the more recent times happened in church choir this year. We sang a song called “O Love” written by Elaine Hagenburg. Here are the words below:
O Love that will not let me go.
I rest my weary soul in thee.
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thy ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be
O Joy that seeks me through the pain.
I cannot close my heart to thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
This song actually started as a poem written by George Matheson and I encourage you to look up the whole thing as the lyrics do not include all of the stanzas. This entire song is beautiful, but a few lines always seem to get me. I don’t know about you, but I am a stubborn person. I like to think that I know it all and that Iv’e got it all under control. When something bad happens to me or around me, I like to blame whoever is closest… it’s anyone’s fault, but mine. Along with blaming a human, my go-to move is blaming God for not stopping this bad thing from happening. God knows this. We talk about it often. It’s a pro me and it’s my knee-jerk reaction. “God why? If you’re all-powerful, why can’t you stop these things from happening? How dare you? Why do you punish people for other people’s mistakes? Why do you allow horrible things to happen to innocent people?”
There are a lot of things theologically wrong with those questions. I know that and I am aware that they are incredibly problematic. I would love to go into a deeper discussion about why I disagree with all of the questions that I ask, but that’s an in-person conversation that I’d love to have with you. The point is… I ask them and because I ask these particular questions, it creates a divide in our relationship, and as I’ve said before, I’m stubborn. So, the divide in our relationship is not my fault, right? I mean… God was the one who made these things happen (theologically wrong, just flow with me), right? So, technically… it’s God’s fault that I feel bitter, depressed and have a hard heart towards God. And then I sing this song at church or it pops into my head…
O Love that will not let me go. No matter how hard I try to let go and push away and run away from this Love, this Love will not let me go. This Love loves me too much to let me go because of my childish behavior and selfish way of thinking.
I give thee back the life I owe… the life I owe this Love. The life that I would not have without this Love. I give that life back, not only so that I can rest my weary, downtrodden soul, but also so that my lie may be richer and fuller in that Love.
O Joy that seeks me through the pain. Despite me running away from it, blaming it for all of my problems, pushing it away. The Joy seeks me. Why me? Despite all of the hate and bitterness in my heart… The Joy loves me so much, wants to comfort me, wants me to have a rich and full life in love that this Joy seeks me through the pain. Seeks me when I should be seeking it.
I cannot close my heart to thee. No matter how hard I try and no matter how many time in my life I have tried… my heart, thankfully, is always opened back up to the Joy and Love that is chasing after it.
Trace the rainbow through the rain. When I return to the Joy, I am able to trace the rainbow. I can see the Joy through the depression because Love is gently and consistently knocking on my concrete heart.
The promise is not in vain. The promise of Love and Joy is there and not only waiting for me, but chasing me. It longs for me to open my arms and accept it because once again… this Love is a gift. A gift that is freely given, with my name on it, waiting for me to open it and use it.
This love is kind, compassionate, and is ready to share in my grief and sadness, in my brokenness and pain, in my bitterness and rebellion. This Love will bear my troubles for me and with me. This Love will remind me of the Joy that is available to me. This Love will not let me go and will seek me through my pain. All I have to do is accept that Love.