Today, Tara and I sang in a choral concert at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland. The concert featured a 45-minute piece of music entitled “Requiem,” written by the 20th Century French composer Maurice Durufle. It’s a beautiful piece that is very familiar to me, since I sang it with a different choir a decade ago. Singing along with a hundred other singers, a small orchestra, and a recently installed pipe organ was a tremendous experience. There’s something about religious choral music that speaks to my heart in powerful ways.
During our rehearsal just before the concert, our choir director made a comment that me stop and think. In a particularly quiet a capella portion of the Requiem, we were asked to sing as softly as possible – so much so that the audience would have to strain, to lean forward in their seats, to hear the music. And in order to help the audience experience what this music was all about, our director encouraged us by saying:
“Don’t send the music out to them [the audience]. Let them come up here.”
You see, we were in the choir loft of the sanctuary, properly called the chancel, where the pulpit and lectern are located and the choir sits during their worship services. Like that of many sanctuaries, this chancel is elevated a few steps above the main floor, where the congregation sits. This elevation, this separation reminds us that God is holy, that we are striving to move spiritually upward, that during worship we are encountering a God who is higher than we are.
“Don’t send the music out to them. Let them come up here.”
I am reminded of our experience in sharing the Lord’s Supper at Mt. Haley this morning. An important component of our participation in this meal is that we come forward to receive the bread and cup, which remind us of Jesus’s body and blood, the perfect sacrifice that redeems us of sin. When we walk forward from our seats, we acknowledge in our bodies that something significant is happening: we are encountering God in a meaningful and unique way.
“Let them come up here.”
When the choir sang Durufle’s Requiem this evening, we were encouraged to let the audience come up to the chancel, to experience something of the divine in the midst of a work of choral music. And interestingly, this was to take place when this large choir was singing the most quietly, without any accompaniment from the orchestra or organ.
Take a moment to read Psalm 46, a short but very meaningful song of worship that celebrates God our fortress and strength. And listen, in the midst of the quiet of verse 10, to what God says to us from his throne:
“Let them come up here.”
Let us be transformed by our encounters with the living God.