This Sunday, May 21, at 3:00 p.m., nearly 200 singers and 38 orchestral musicians will combine forces under the leadership of two of the world’s greatest choral legends, Anton Armstrong and André Thomas. Dr. Armstrong is conductor of the famed St. Olaf Choir, arguably one of the greatest choirs in the world and certainly the finest college choir in America. Dr. Thomas is renowned for his arrangements of African-American spirituals and composer of dozens of works, including a new Mass in gospel and jazz style. You will hear two movements from that Mass this Sunday.
This concert marks the third collaboration between two of my beloved choral ensembles, BMPC’s Sanctuary Choir and the Singing City Choir. While different in mission – the Sanctuary Choir is BMPC’s musical representative and offers musical praises on behalf of the congregation to God; founded in 1948, Singing City is one America’s first integrated choirs and is committed to social justice and uniting people of different colors, religions, and social classes – the outcome of their work is similar.
Each week, these singers deliver a message of peace and harmony through a broad range of music and musical styles. That message is circular. For as we deliver messages of peace, justice, unity, and love, we are in turn the recipients of positive change. Anton Armstrong once said, “Music enriches the whole person. In any sport someone is a winner, and someone else is a loser. In music, everyone is the winner.”
One of the most poignant moments in this concert comes during Kim André Arnesen’s ravishingly beautiful song, Flight Song. The piece begins with these words:
All we are we have found in song:
you have drawn this song from us.
Songs of lives unfolding
flying overhead, cry overhead;
longing, rising from the song within.
The poetry goes on to describe the fragility of people in pain, crying out in restless nights. The poet is really describing each of us, at varying points in life. Near the end of the piece, come these words:
Like a feather falling from the wing,
fragile as a human voice,
afraid, uncertain, alive to love …
And then, the moment I most love: we sing AS love.
That is the very essence of what it means to be in a choir – singing not only about love, but as love.
Armstrong says it this way: “The gifts of music are needed in the world. It's a healing balm for people who hurt inside, doing music, hearing music. We bring a message of grace, faith and love to deal with the ugliness of the world.”
I hope you will join us this Sunday at 3 p.m. when we sing as love, in a world that, more than ever, needs love. You may purchase tickets at the door, but to guarantee a seat, visit Singing City’s online box office.
I would hate to have you arrive and find there are no seats left!
Click here for a video of Anton Armstrong conducting “Flight Song."