A story written by Kathy Hoffman and presented at the Women's Advent Luncheon at Messiah Lutheran Church on November 18, 2018. |
They had consumed copious amounts of coffee. Their vocal chords were steamy .The Singers were ready. They had each surreptitiously slipped by the cookie table for a quick pick-me-up. And now, they were processing into the Choir Loft. The dress code had been announced and everyone was in place, wearing white, black or Christmas-red togs. No detail had been left to chance. Bottled water was at the left front leg of each chair. Each Singer's initials were on the cap of their bottles. The Tall Soprano glanced around the Orchestra and noticed how every bit of space had been utilized. The Conductor had thought of everything.With one minute to go, the Singers turned to the Congregation and found their friends and family sitting straight with great anticipation.
The Conductor called for a B-Flat … the Pianist responded … the Brass found their note. The Conductor called for an A … again, the Pianist responded … the Strings brought forth the expected timbre. The Conductor looked at his Singers hopefully, reminding them one last time to sing the vowels and spit the consonants. The Choir smiled, as if in on a great secret. The Conductor lifted his baton. Weeks, if not years, of practice came to fruition as the Orchestra and the Choir filled the air with the most amazing strains. No vowels were chewed. No syllables were chopped. Phrases blended together in swells. Each time The Conductor swayed to the left or the right, the Choir united in mushrooms of resonating reverberations. The Bass section sang with all their heart. The Bass, Baritone and Tenor sections were all in their element. Their task was to follow the baton and bounce their notes off the back wall. They reeled with pleasure as they realized that the speed of light truly isfaster than the speed of sound.The Conductor beamed!
Song after song … Orchestral introductions ... Handbells … Children's Choir … Soloists. The lyrics of the songs synchronized perfectly with the Narrator's remarks. Everything was flawless.
And then came the Finale … "Fall on Your Knees."
The Tall Soprano leaned forward slightly and nodded knowingly to her Mentor who was seated 3 chairs to the right. Their eyes brightened as they exchanged smiles. The Conductor raised his baton. There was complete silence.Down came the baton as the French Horn tooted its engaging but plaintive cry. The violins, saxophone and the rest of the brass joined in. The Pianist came in with the sweet dainty melody:the introduction which was so familiar to the Singers.1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. The Conductor changed to 12/8 time and signaled his Sopranos who took the hint. Full rich low pianissimo tones came from the far left of the Choir loft.
"Come, See the Child, He is hereby the fire." All the Sopranos were singing their vowels, swaying with the swells of the phrases.
"Silently come, drawn earthe manger side." Vowels, vowels, vowels!
The eyes of those in the Congregation opened wide in expectation as the Orchestra and the Choir built to fortissimo:"Lookin His faceand see the world'ssalvation."
The Conductor gently brought them back to the rich, reverent melody "And feel the holy peace … Fall on your knees."
And then The Conductor repeated the surge.
"Open your eyes, nowthe holystaris rising." The swaying became more powerful.Boards of the Choir Loft creaked in heavenly pleasure.
"Rays of the light, wil lshine to touch your soul." The Sopranos felt it first … their souls were alive! The Altos were in total harmony with the Sopranos … their souls were alive! Then the Bass, Baritone and Tenor sections caught the fever! Those in the Orchestra who were seated facing the Choir knew that something unusual was happening!With eyes widened and eyebrows raised, they inhaled as one! The Conductor (who had momentarily been flicking a piece of dust from his tuxedo and wondering where that could possibly have come from) heard the collective gasp and immediately looked up at the Choir. THIS IS IT, he realized, THEY'RE HERE!He twirled his baton feverishly at the Sopranos!
The Sopranos were unmistakably here.He turned to the Orchestra and initiated another crescendo: "Open your heart to the glory and the wonder", then struggled to bring the Sopranos back to the reverent melody. But the whole Choir, seeing mezzo-forte on the sheet music, refused to come back to pianissimo.
"Feel the holy peace… Fall on your knees." The Conductor was delighted!
The directions on the music glared up from the page stating With Greater Momentum. The Sopranos filled their lungs, their bellies and finally their souls as they danced at the top of the treble staff!
"Fall on your knees." They nailed the D in unison.
They rose to the E:"O hear the angel voices." They had found their place to be! They were soaring and they refused to stop! The Tall Soprano thought her heart might burst from ecstasy!
The Conductor took the Sopranos to the uppermost line of the treble staff … F … but it was more than a simple F … it was an F-Sharp: "O NIGHT…!" It rang out decisively as the Sopranos stretched their necks to hit the top of the note and hung on for dear life as if swinging from a trapeze. Cool … crisp … clear … for an eternity.
" … divine. O night when Christ was born." They came back to an E, and settled down on a D as everyone breathed a sigh of gratitude. But The Conductor, seeing the contented looks on their faces, took them back to the heights again.
"O Night, divine. O night when Christ was born." Familiar words but a slightly different melody … the Congregation knew that the Singers were in their element.
And then it came. The key changed from D to E-flat. It should have been a textbook change. They had practiced and practiced for this moment. But something inside the Sopranos snapped. They took on a life of their own. At first, the Orchestra didn't realize that something was different as they happily played their instruments. Even the other Singers didn't realize that something rare was happening. They were focusing on The Conductor. But the electricity in the room was unmistakable.All the Singers looked to their left … shock filled every face as the Sopranos, like the key-change, took a half-step backwards and revved up for the onslaught. It was all The Conductor could do to keep up with them!
And with this change in key, the Orchestra and Singers had renewed energy. Brass blared, Strings strung, the Percussion Player was flapping his specialty instruments with both hands and his teeth as the fervor built.
"Come …now …and …fallon your knees as you worshipin His presence." The Sopranos owned the treble staff.They went pure and high … they went rich and low. They went slow and steady … they swayed as they built up speed.
"Thanks be to God …y ou have foundthe holy Child." Up and down the keyboard the Pianist raced, determined to keep up with the Sopranos.
"Blessed are all who have seen the Lord's salvation." The beat changed from 6/8 to 12/8. The Pianist hammered 12 chords to the measure in an effort to regain control of the song. This had never happened in all her years at the piano!
The Sopranos were back up at their F. They darted down to the safety of an A to escape the Pianist. When the coast was clear they raced back up to their F! They had gone insane! They stretched their necks a full two inches, arched their backs and hurled their words to the rafters in a frenzy. "Come and lift your voice … Let your heart rejoice!" It was a watershed moment. And then they did the unthinkable. They threw caution to the wind and flew from the safety of the treble staff for the heights that only come in dreams … High G … FREEDOM! The Conductor's mouth dropped. He took a quick eighth-note breath and screamed"BLASTISSIMO" at the top of his lungs as they peaked:"And PRA …!" The Soprano's heads were flopping wildly and joyously as they hung on to the High G!Earrings and sequined scarves glittered in the bright lights. By then, the Altos had gotten the fever. Time stood still. The High G lingered stirringly … "AAAAAISE…!" One Alto and two Sopranos swooned." … the Prince of Peace." Three Second Sopranos, dizzy from their maiden flight, took their seats and lowered their heads between their knees. The Bass Guitarist teetered precariously on the edge of his chair, then toppled to the floor in a heap. In all the commotion, the Flutist had also broken free. But in the end, it was the French Horn who managed to regain a semblance of control. The remaining Sopranos surrendered, happily yielding to The Conductor's baton. "Fall on your knees … fall on your knee …". Ever-the-professionals, they held the final long-E sound for 24 eighth notes in a husky pianissimo as The Conductor slowed the tempo … beat by beat … "ees.". The Pianist wiped her brow before concluding the Cantata with an E-flat from the nether-regions of the keyboard.
The Congregation sighed …
The Sopranos smiled …
The Conductor bowed …
The Cantata … was … complete.
With special thanks to David Teeter, The Conductor
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