The melody of the trebles
twirled like a medieval
dove through the high space
of the ancient cathedral.
The crowd sat in rapt attention,
wrapped up in the other-worldly
spell of the boy sopranos,
magicians of the Christmas carol sing.
Their words were lost to rounded
vowel and elusive reverb of stone,
a trade-off no one lamented seeing
it was for the mystic feeling alone
we had come. For that fix of peace.
For something old (and being old
an anchor). But the articulated—
word by word by word a story told—
this was drowned in the sound,
these bounced off ears the way the soaring
notes ricocheted from concrete arch
to arch above the mottled marble floor.
We enjoyed an exquisitely beautiful concert at Grace Cathedral yesterday, a special Christmas concert performed by the cathedral's Men and Boys Choir. I was struck by two things: the absolute mystic beauty of the music, and my inability to aurally distinguish the words being sung (if not for reading along with the printed lyrics in the program bulletin). I observed the warm and welcome receptivity to the music. I wondered if such receptivity was also being extended to the substance of the words being sung, or if the hard-to-decipher nature of the sung texts was a metaphor for the fate of the Christmas narrative in today's public square which, while in its essence a revolutionary and mind-blowing assertion of the radical God-come-to-earth story, has been turned inside-out into a vague anesthetic cliche that produces general feelings of warm sentiment without any vital connection to the actual story.
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