Have you ever seen a musical miracle?
I saw one 2 years ago.
It happened at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Terrace Park, OH, a neighborhood on the north-east side of Cincinnati.
Janae and I had just decided to move our family to Utah after 9 wonderful years. Janae was excited. I was a mess. The kids were happy. The schools were great. The music scene was amazing.
But these were not the main reasons I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to leave my friends in the Parish Choir at St. Thomas.
During the time we made the challenging decision to move, I was writing a new 5 movement cantata for St. Thomas. The middle movement was a setting of Psalm 23. I had really poorer my heart and soul into this movement. It took longer to get it right than it did to get the rest of the cantata right.
2 years ago this week I had gone to rehearsal for 2 purposes. To sing through my new setting of Psalm 23 with the choir, and to tell my friends that I was moving far far away.
I tried to hold in all the emotions that I was feeling, but I lost my composure a bit as I broke the news and told them how much they meant to me and how sad I was to leave them.
After some heartfelt remarks and hugs, we sang through my new piece. And this is when the first part of the miracle occurred.
It wasn't only that we sight-read the 8-part a cappella piece almost perfectly (wonder of wonders), but some kind of magic happened as we sang of "one heart and one soul." (Acts 4:32) It was a beautiful unifying experience. We really felt something together. We all looked around at each other in silence as we finished. It was a miraculous moment that had a whole lot more to do with people and our shared intent and desire than about a bunch of little black dots I had written on the page.
The second part of the miracle came a couple months later when we performed the new cantata in an evening service at St. Thomas. Right as we began, the sun came shining through a high window above the organ and nearly blinded us. In my 5 years of singing at St. Thomas, I had never noticed the sun distracting me as a sang. At first, it was quite annoying. But as we sang, I had this special feeling come over me, as if the sun was heaven smiling on us and approving of our musical offering.
And I wasn't the only one. My librettist, Phyllis Wocher, came right up afterward all excited, "Did you see the sun! God loved our piece!"
The real miracle was that a group of people who cared both about each other and the people they were singing to, sang a piece written with a unique intent for the express purpose of uplifting and inspiring those who heard and performed it. It was all a big act of service. And that made all the difference.
And what a great way to end our time together!
Luckily I'm still composer-in-residence at St. Thomas and hope to be for a very long time.
I hope you enjoy listening to my setting of Psalm 23 on this Sunday evening.
You can hear it by clicking the picture or the link below.