Sunday, March 01, 2015

I stand here in the midst

"...I stand here in the midst of them: your house, your heart, Jerusalem." When I started rehearsing the psalm (116) for this week, my first thought was "What was Rory Cooney thinking with that F# above high C?"

I thought about taking an octave's dive.  I thought about skipping the third verse entirely, no matter how directly it responded to the first reading.  I thought about punting this setting and using the sure-to-be-less-vocally-taxing Respond and Acclaim version.  And then I thought about Abraham and Isaac and the vows that we profess with our lips, but are in truth wrung from our souls.  Vows that cost something, that risk everything.

I know I can hit the note (most of the time) in rehearsal, particularly when I am belting it out, but was worried about being able to hit the note reliably when prayerfully proclaiming a psalm in front of a few hundred people, when neither a Broadway belt nor a warbly screech will do.  But I also thought about how what we profess, who we believe in, stretches us out. We, too, are held between heaven and earth on the cross, stretching ever upward.  Like those last notes, which clamber from the depths of the B below middle C up to that almost unreachable F# in the course of a dozen words.  I understood why those notes were put to this text, so that we might know where we live and breathe.

I rehearsed, I memorized the text and the music so I would not have to look down, I woke up early enough that my voice might be really warmed up.  This psalm cost me something.  And I left the final decision in the hands of our amazingly supportive, but utterly honest, accompanist, who listened and said, "yes, sing it."  I would risk everything.

This morning, I stood in the midst of God's people, in the midst of God's house, before God's heart and I gave my breath over completely to the Word.  And when I let go that last note, I heard the assembly proclaim steadily in return, "I will walk in the presence of God."  Every breath returned to the God who made us, no matter how costly, no matter how risky.

Thanks, Rory Cooney - for an F# that stretched me out between heaven and earth.


  1. Unexpected tears. This is simply beautiful, Michelle. I wish I could have heard that F#. Thank you...

    1. I walked back to my seat and found my own face wet with my tears, Rosa.

  2. Thank you for that lovely blog post, Michelle. If I ever regretted the F#, I'm not sorry now!

  3. I have found myself in a similar position lately when my voice was rendered unpredictable by a cold. I debated calling in for a sub, because my voice wasn't "perfect" but then I realized it wasn't about me. And the imperfection and random cracking of my voice made it more meaningful, because it didn't come so easily.

  4. LOVE this. As a musician and as a person. And the note that is my personal Waterloo is a good bit below that F#.