09 November 2006

agnus dei

It's that time of year, when things start to get Very Dark and in choir we've reached the Agnus Dei movement of the chorale we're learning. These things seem to always go together, bringing back memories of high school when the pre-season ski training started and we were in the final preparations for the end-of-semester concert. We'd come in to evening chorus from the dark blustery weather, breathless and pink-cheeked, squirming puppy-like with the extra energy of country teenagers and filled with the wind blowing atop the Vermont hills we trained on. After warm-up, we'd sing, running through the beginning parts we knew well by then, and finally, agnus dei, the always coming near the end of the standard Latin mass or chorale. Promises of resurrection amidst the sorrow, often sung quite high, usually less complex than the other parts before, but so very beautiful. Even at 15, this was moving to sing.

Many of these masses and chorales seem to use the higher registers of the soprano voices, so they're hard to sing early in practice, but there's always that moment when my voice releases and I can find the high notes again. It all blends together then- time past and time present, Iceland and Vermont, the cycles of seasons and large pieces of music, and the combined effort of many voices in four-part harmony. It's not always perfect but it's so worth it for those times when everyone finally starts to feel their part and the way the voices weave together.

I'm comfortable in this familiar experience singing masses, but the longer I'm here, the more universal the whole experience starts to feel, especially in the cold and dark now when the fragrance of the moss is muted. When I walk at night, the staccato of a one-way cellphone conversation from a passerby will snap me from my reverie and internal singing but I disappear back into the sensory experience around me quickly- the prickle of cold on the inside of my wrist where my glove is rumpled, the automatic shift in the way I walk when I hit a patch of ice, the constant scanning of the northern sky for any sign of green (none last night). Cold and windy dark fit together with the music of redemption, like jam and lamb fit, like apples and cheddar.


Professor Batty said...

...thanks again, for your inspiring posts. They are really appreciated, you make my day again and again...

ECS said...

Batty- Thanks, and likewise! You've been turning out some great stuff recently.