Verse – My Familiar Voice

Her voice is low and very resonant,
but now, with age, I often cannot hear
each word. She rightly takes offense at that
and thinks me inattentive. If my ear
is turned away, or if I do not see
her moving lips, the sounds are often lost.
For other women there is jealousy
since I can hear them fine. It is not lust
for at the string trio tonight, the sound
of violin was clear, cello was round,
but viola was lost in the background…

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL April 8, 2015

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” in a Child’s Voice

Akim Camara

Akim Camara

This child’s innocence – his eyes, his voice, his face, his courage, his trust – takes us to our deepest selves in the presence of the Sacred. Sit back and watch Akim Camara, hand-in-hand with Carla Maffioletti, singing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu”.

“Pie Jesu” means “Merciful/kind Jesus”; in its context in the Latin Requiem Mass, it calls on “the Lamb of God” to show mercy to the suffering. Kindness and mercy are at the heart of spirituality.

The text has an interesting history. The “Pie Jesu” is an ancient motet based on the last couplet of the “Dies Irae” (“Day of Wrath”) that was part of the old Latin Requiem Mass. The Vatican II liturgical reforms removed the “Dies Irae” from the Mass in order to emphasize Christian hope. A number of composers, among them Andrew Lloyd Webber – influenced by Gabriel Faure’s “Pie Jesu” – gave new musical expression to the prayer: “Kind/merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Kind/merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest eternal.” BTW, Faure’s Requiem includes the “Dies Irae” which has become part of the Good Friday period of meditation at Shepherd of the Hill, not because God is wrathful, but because we so often have reason to cry out “Libera Me!” from the depths of terror and desolation.

The Surrogate Voice

Some moments last a lifetime.

Chicago Seven - Dale Hartwig in red shirt

My friend Dale has Parkinson’s. He has boarded a train in Michigan (he’s now in a long-term care center there) to be with “The Chicago Seven” – the seven former classmates who gather annually at McCormick Theological Seminary. This year, Dale’s speech is hard to comprehend. He is reduced to listening. Death and dying are sitting at the table.At the morning reflection and round-table sharing, Dale is sitting to my right. When his turn comes, we look at Dale. There is an awkward silence. He hands me something. He wants me to read aloud what he’s written. I read his words aloud.

Gordon C. Stewart  – written in thanksgiving for the Chicago Gathering, 2004:

“THE SURROGATE VOICE”

The surrogate voice reads on,

the author sits and sobs

wrenching tears from primal depth:

from some abyss of joy or nothingness…or both.

The author’s sighs and piercing sobs

arrest routine,

invoke a hush,

dumb-found the wordy room.

He cannot speak,

his Parkinsons’ tongue tied,

his voice is mute, in solitude confined,

all but sobs too deep for words.

Another now becomes his  voice

offering aloud in a dummy’s voice

the muted contribution

in poetic verse the ventriloquist’s voice has penned.

The abyss of muted isolation ope’d,

his words, re-voiced aloud,

hush the seven to sacred silence,  all…

except from him, their author.

Whence comes this primal cry:

From depths of deep despair and death,

from loneliness, or depths of joy

We do not know.

The surrogate voice reads on

through author’s signs and sobs,

through his uncertain gasps for air

and our uncertain care.

The iron prison gates – the guards

of his despair – unlock and open out

to turn his tears from prison’s hole

to tears of comrade joy.

His word is spoken, his voice is heard,

a word expressed

in depth and Primal Blessing,

pardoned from the voiceless hell.

The stone rolls back,

rolls back, rolls back,

from the brother’s prison’s tomb,

the chains of sadness snap and break!

At one, at one, we Seven stand,

in Primal Silence before the open tomb,

as tears of loss, of gain, of tongues released

re-Voice unbroken chords of brotherhood.

 All moments are sacred. Some last a lifetime.