There was a song in my heart that morning, driving into the city in the back of my parent’s little blue Datsun, immediately after church. I had spent several Saturdays boarding a bus and practicing, and now it was time to perform for the Erie County Chorus, where I was in my first year with the elementary group. I was in the sixth grade, and I was folder number 1. Folders were listed in height order. Strange to consider now, since I am notoriously short. But, since I did all my growing before I turned 12, I lumbered above many of the other young singers. This was the first and last time that ever happened, so I am guessing that is why it left such an impression.
This was one of many firsts: the first time I sang in a large choral group, the first time I ever went to Kleinhan’s Music Hall, the first time I had been conducted by anyone other than my school music teacher. It was also the first time I sang anything from Vivaldi’s Gloria. At that concert, we sang just the opening movement, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” which had been written to be performed by the young voices for which Vivaldi so often directed and composed. I remember learning to say, “Egg-shell-seas” in perfect, timed unison before we were allowed to sing to words. I remember how amazing it was to be in a whole sea of voices, standing on risers in a concert hall with wonderful acoustics. Concerts in the gymnasium at school would never be the same. We also sang, “Tree Song” (“I saw a tree by the riverside, one day as I walked along…”), as well as a medley of African-American spirituals, and some Hungarian folk songs. There were probably other songs, too, but those three have stuck with me over time. I remember being filled with a sense of joyous wonder the whole day, feeling like I was immersed in an entirely different world. This love of classical music has remained with me throughout the years. I am sure this was a hope of those who organized these choral activities, and they should be pleased to know that it took. I am still filled with joy when I sing or hear these classical masterpieces…the Music of the Spheres.
I was filled with joy on this particular morning, too. I woke thinking about that long-ago All County chorus, even as I was humming the Domine Deus, Agnus Dei from the Vivaldi Gloria as I readied for church. My daughter was helping with the younger kids, telling them the story of Mr. Vivaldi and his work teaching orphan girls to sing. I was in my choir robe, surrounded by friends, accompanied by rich cello, strings, and oboe. I sang, both in my chorus and in my solo, and my heart was overflowing with joy. I had joy overflowing as I caught glimpses on the faces of those in the congregation who were taking in this offering of song, this gift of music in the midst of a season of hope. It was a glorious morning as we sang, and joy continued to fill my spirit as I slipped from my choir robe into a Eucharistic Minister robe so that I could assist at communion. This has also become my deep joy, to be in a role of offering the gifts of communion to my friends and community in faith. I experience deep joy and connection participating in this service, joy that is unexpected and intense at some moments. This is joy at a soul level. Like that young child on a stage, immersion into that joy feels like a welcome into a world of new experience and hopeful possibility.
There is deep meaning in these moments of joy which rests with me on this third Sunday of advent. I retain the joy of this music I first sang as a child, and today allowed that joy to take shape in the music that flowed from me. I also experienced deep, soul-filled joy today, sharing the sustenance of communion, the blessing, breaking, and sharing of divine love in community where all are welcome. This joy all flows from me on a day that marks one year from the time when I sat in the same exact seat, with tears flowing uncontrollably. My tears one year ago were in response to both the collective sorrow for the young lives ended tragically too soon at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but also in response to a moving in my spirit that overtook me and shook me from my status quo of how it seemed my life would be. On that day, one year ago, I first began to recognize and pay attention to this voice that had been with me throughout my journey, speaking to me and guiding my steps. I am still listening, responding, discerning.
And at the core of all this, as I wait and prepare, there is deep and lasting joy.