I cannot tell a lie. I didn’t know what music I was going to play today. I have been emotionally drained for the past week and while music has been so essential to my own processing of current events, I was drawing a blank for what music to play for today’s services. Some of you may know that I put a date on every piece of music I play at the UUFC so I know to give that piece a little time before playing it again. Well, today I broke my rule about repeating music too soon, and played works that I used merely four days ago on Wednesday evening at the post-election vespers service. On Wednesday morning, it was clear that a good number of fellowship members were devastated and shocked by the election results and were in need of contact and comfort, so we held a service where people could sing and express their feelings. I began that evening by playing Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”, a song that I have always found great solace in. Sarah McLachlan wrote “Angel” as a response to the fatal heroin overdose of Jonathan Melvoin, keyboardist for the Smashing Pumpkins, and it is not only a beautiful and evocative piece of music, but one that speaks of despair, the search for peace, and hope for the future. Feeling lost, I began today’s service with this song as well.
Some might be aware of this, but on the second Sunday of every month, we host a “drop-in choir”…this means that anyone who wishes to sing with the choir can show up, learn that day’s anthem during the Sunday morning rehearsal, and then sing for that day’s services. This has been a wonderful opportunity for those who want to dip their toe into the UUFC choral community, or who love to sing but can’t commit to all of the weekly rehearsals and Sunday services. Today we had a larger turnout than usual for drop-in choir, as David had announced that we would be singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. The world lost a great artist this week, and Leonard Cohen’s death was a blow to the world of music, poetry, and literature. As the choir rehearsed this morning, I realized that the alternate text for our choral arrangement wasn’t just an homage to Cohen, but was perfect for the emotional turmoil that could already be felt in the fellowship.
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
Thank you, Leonard Cohen.
Humility…a sermon topic selected and advertised well before last Tuesday’s election results. I held my breath, unsure of what direction Jill would go with this theme now that the world had turned upside down. As Jill spoke, her message became clear. Humility: we must become oriented toward others, and have an accurate sense of our strengths and weaknesses. We must become oriented toward others, and have an accurate sense of our strengths and weaknesses. We will face each new day that we have been dealt, give thanks for what we do have, and stay on the path that we have chosen. We will practice love and let everything we do be in love.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” has always been a congregational favorite, and there is no better message than:
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
But I wanted to make this rendition of “Imagine” different, to accompany the sadness in the faces that I saw before me…and selfishly, as an act of catharsis for myself. The keys of C major (the original key of “Imagine”) and A Minor are relatives, meaning that they share the same key signature even though the former key is major (happy sounding) and the latter key is minor (sad sounding). (This is a very general description of the relationship between C major and A Minor.) When I played “Imagine” today, I replaced every single C major chord for the first three-quarters of the song with its relative minor…thus, without changing a single note of the melody, could create the darker and sadder “Imagine” that I was hoping for. I thinned out the accompaniment of the piece’s opening, making the music’s texture sparse and the melody exposed. It became starker, simpler. Instead of the expression of a happy dream for the world and its people, “Imagine” became a desperate plea.
After playing through the initial verses and chorus of “Imagine”, I transitioned to another song well-known to local singers. “Be the Change” is a song composed and arranged by Corvallis musicians Suz Doyle, A. Davis, Don Alan Hall, and Jerry Hull. It is also the song that the Corvallis Community Choir ends every rehearsal and performance with. The lyrics are based on Mahatma Ghandi’s wise words, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. After making my way through “Be the Change” I returned to the final chorus of “Imagine” and only then played every C major harmony as written. This is meant as a reflection of the world itself: we can achieve peace and a brotherhood of man only after we be the change we wish to see in the world.
To mirror Wednesday evening’s vespers service once more, today’s postlude was The Pretenders “I’ll Stand By You”. The song speaks for itself.