The concert was almost beyond description in how wonderfully they sang and played. I had in my mind when I drove over to KC to hear Granddaughter Chloe sing in the University of Missouri, Kansas City’s [UMKC] Children’s Choir that they would sing, along with another small choir of high school girls also sponsored by UMKC. When I arrived, a Trombone Ensemble was playing Christmas music from the balcony of the church. That was followed by the first piece, an unusual but very effective arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” played by the church’s (Atonement Lutheran) very large and accomplished Handbell choir. Then began an evening filled with an array of classical and contemporary pieces of Christmas music, by a variety of choirs and instrumentalists from the Conservatory of Music at UMKC. After putting together all the singers in the various choirs and the instrumentalists, there appeared to be well over a hundred performers.
There were classical pieces from many periods of music, sometimes with choirs singing back and forth between stage area and balcony. Chloe’s choir sang one song in German and another in French. They did a great job. There were more contemporary arrangements of some of the Carols. The audience was invited to sing a couple of the familiar Carols.
They were so skilled and well directed that it was possible to simply lose myself in the music, drinking it in, watching the performers, celebrating the marvelous impact of the sounds and visuals (the faces of the perfomers). Son Micah put his arm around my shoulder and reminded me of my years of singing in choirs. From the time I was about 14 until I graduated from the Seminary at 26, my life was all about singing in choirs. I had the joy of serving as President and Student Conductor of five of those choirs spread over my high school and college (pre-seminary) years. There were many choir tours including a three week tour to England, Holland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There was the chant choir that rehearsed regularly and sang at chapel weekly during the three years on site (other than the Internship year) at the Seminary. Even after that there were two or three years while serving a parish that I sang in a semi-professional choir called Schola Cantorum, a choir sponsored by the American Guild of Organists’ Chapter in Kansas City.
I was lost in the music until the choirs all gathered together to sing the last three pieces. Of course, with so many voices they filled the room with sound when they sang, “Do You Hear What I Hear.” For some reason, that is when it hit me how much Mary Ann would have loved being there, hearing the music, seeing Chloe sing. I held it together with great difficulty. Then came the all the college age singers, all eighty or hundred of them, along with a brass ensemble, and organ performing together doing “Joy to the World.” The sound was overwhelming. I could no longer keep it together. The tears started streaming down my face and then there was the shuddering that happens when it finally breaks through. I turned a bit away from the kids and tried to keep from being noticeable to anyone around me. It is terribly hard to accept that she is gone from here. I hate that she was not there to experience it. I can’t change what has happened. I did not lose myself in the grief. The tears were appropriate, and in a way, they honored her. Since crying has not been a part of my usual expression of emotions, when they do come, it is only when I can no longer keep them in check. I work especially hard at keeping them under control when I am in public.
We ran into Bob and Pat, a couple from my first Parish in the Kansas City area. They were there since it was a fund-raiser for Harvester’s Food Bank that serves tens of thousands of folks in need of food through the many agencies who obtain that food from Harvester’s. What makes that dimension of the evening especially meaningful to me is that in the mid-1970′s, it was a couple of folks from the congregation of which I was a pastor who started Harvester’s. One of them, Jerry, had a cold storage company and the other, Bob, was a sales manager for Libby foods. It was just a dream at first. It has now grown beyond anyone’s imagination. I recalled with Bob, one time when our congegation picked up windfall apples for Harvesters. I drove a truck that could carry 20,ooo pounds. No, we did not gather than many apples, but the truck was so large that when I drove it to the church, I was stopped by the police. There were no trucks allowed on the Kansas side of State Line road. I guess I would have been all right if I had been driving north, in the lane that was on the Missouri side of the mid-line. When I explained what I was doing, the police officers allowed me to continue the few blocks to the church without issuing me a ticket.
Last night was an evening I won’t soon forget. It is quite a ride I am on. Sometimes it just takes my breath away.