Friday, December 1, 2017

Singing in Silence

Post by: Nicole Stegink

Every December since 1998, I have performed Handel’s Messiah with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Between the multitude of rehearsals and performances over the last 19 years, I have the choral sections of this great oratorio mostly memorized. When the music score is in my hands, it seems as though muscle-memory kicks in, launching me into a kind of performance auto-pilot. I have done this work with countless different CSO and guest conductors, and even though each one has brought his own interpretation to the baton and stage in an attempt to breathe new life into this perennial holiday favorite, for me it’s gotten stale. Have you ever done something over and over and over so many times that it starts to become meaningless? It seemed this year as though nothing could resuscitate this epic piece for me except the knowledge that I will not be performing it this Christmas season.

Over the last year or so, I have been experiencing some difficulty with singing and speaking and recently received a medical diagnosis which has the potential to alter dramatically my ability to sing. I am currently on a leave of absence from the Colorado Symphony Chorus until my doctors and I can figure out a plan of action that allows me to move forward and continue singing. Singing…..the gift God bestowed to me. Singing…the way I serve my church and my community. Singing…the very essence of who I am and how I express myself. Singing…what God actually wants us to do and commands us to do. According to an article I read online, there are over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing in the Bible. We all know the book of Psalms is, in fact, a book of songs. Psalm 47:6 states, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises!” In Psalm 96:1-2, we are directed to “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.”

I don’t know if this is true or not, but John Wesley supposedly once said, “Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.” With those words in mind, suddenly, I realized I had been singing as if I were half-dead or half-asleep. This once tired work sung by rote had become meaningless for me and not because the text isn’t as relevant today as it was 10, 20, or even hundreds of years ago. It occurred to me it’s not this masterpiece with a text that comes entirely from the Scriptures which had gotten lifeless, it’s me.

I started my leave of absence sometime in early October, but it wasn’t until recently, over the Thanksgiving holiday, it really hit home that I won’t be performing the Messiah this year. All these many years, I guess I didn’t really understand and embrace how much singing the Messiah in early December initiates the advent season for me and relieves my mind and soul of the previous year’s burdens, preparing my heart to the message of Christ’s coming.

I may not be able to sing the notes this year, but I can still “sing” in silence through my writing. I can look with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit upon the words of the text and lift up my voice with strength in a new way. So I share now with you from Part One (the Christmas section) some of the recitatives and choruses from Handel’s Messiah, along with the corresponding scripture from which they are derived. I invite you to contemplate anew these Scriptures which we all know and which will never get stagnant.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. And all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 40:5

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. God with us. Isaiah 7:14

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion….say unto the cities of Judah: Behold your God! O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, arise, shine for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Isaiah 40:9

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called: Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace! Isaish 9:6

There were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will towards men. Luke 2:14

Nicole Stegink is a Colorado native and currently lives in Arvada.  She is active in the music ministry of BUMC, singing for both the traditional services and has been a member of the church since 2010.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing but currently works in the legal field and doesn’t get to exercise her writing skills as often as she would like which is why she is excited to be contributing to the church’s blog. 

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