A murmur of excitement ripples through the rehearsal room after the final “amen” of our before-concert-prayer.
Mrs. Fray motions for us to stand.
I turn toward the back row, “Good luck. Are you ready?”
Florence giggles back at me, giddy with excitement.
Ready or not we’re moving forward, one long line, down the steps toward heavy wooden doors and into the blazing light of the sanctuary. Silently we filter into our seats in the loft, the weight of hundreds of eyes upon us. I look out over the dark congregation and smile. They came. They came to hear us, to hear our Vivaldi.
Silence. The orchestra waits. We wait.
Then the pipes behind us rush full of air as Mr. Cope’s fingers fly across organ keys. I watch his score from my place behind the organ. Now he’s on the second page. Last page. Last measure. And the pipes boom a finale.
Mr. Howland steps up onto the stage. As his hand rises, we rise—folders open, watching. His arms hang in the air, frozen. His eyes meet ours. He face reads, “This is it.”
And then the music. I mentally sing along with the short introduction. If you’ve ever sung in a choir, you know that there is nothing like that moment just before an entrance. I breathe in—1, 2, 3, and —
Look at the world, everything all around us. Look at the world, and marvel every day…
This verse for Haiti: Look at the earth, bringing forth fruit and flower. Look at the sky, the sunshine and the rain. Look the hills. Look at the trees and mountains, valley and flowing river field and plain.
Praise to Thee, O Lord, for all creation. Give us thankful hearts that we may see all the gifts we share and every blessing, all things come of Thee.
A congregational hymn follows. And then,
We’ve worked on Vivaldi’s Gloria since before Christmas. I’ve never hated and loved a piece so music so much at the same time–it is so frustratingly difficult but stunningly beautiful when we get it right. I pray that we get it right this time. Violins shatter the silence with a familiar introduction:
Eleven movements and four Rutter anthems later, we reach the benediction. I am sad because this is my last concert, but I am happy because it was more beautiful than I could have imagined.
May the Lord show his mercy upon you. May the light of his be your guide. May he guard you and uphold you. may his spirit be ever by your side. When you sleep may his angels watch over you. When you wake may he fill you with his grace. May you love him and serve him all your days, then in heaven may you see his face.
The congregation applauds, rises, and applauds more. We clap with them for the orchestra, for Mr. Howland. And then he steps down off the stage. For a moment, he’s lost in the audience. But he reappears with Mrs. Fray. Our Mrs. Fray. The audience claps even louder—some of us cheer—because none of it would have happened without Mrs. Fray, our director. And the clapping means Mrs. Fray, you are amazing. We love you. She turns to us and draws tears with her fingers. We love to make her cry—it means we sang well.
When applause dies, we filter off the steps to find our families. Younger singers collect signatures on programs. Upstairs, we slip out of robes. Back in the sanctuary, we chat excitedly and snap pictures together. We did it. We. This team couldn’t be more thrilled than if we owned Vivaldi. In a way, we do own him. We have the words of his Gloria in our hearts and we will not forget:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Glory to God in the highest.
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
And on earth peace to all those of good will.
Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.
We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We worship Thee. We glorify Thee.
Gratias agimus tibi, propter magnam gloriam tuam.
We give thanks to Thee according to Thy great glory.
Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father almighty.
Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. Thou Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Thou who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Thou Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.
Quonium tu solus sanctus. Tu solus Dominus. Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
For Thou alone art Holy. Thou alone art the Lord. Thou alone art the most high, Jesus Christ.
Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.
With the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.