My singing teacher invited me to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at the Anglican Cathedral as they marked the beginning of Advent last night. My sister came with me and we drove through the rain, past rows of illuminated evergreens announcing the season in a nearby park. Inside, the Cathedral was warm, dark and quiet except for the whisper of coats being shed. Candles flickered along the aisles and in the transepts.
The service was entirely sung, except for the nine lessons - readings interspersed between the antiphons my teacher chanted, carols sung by the choir, and hymns in which we all joined.
I have always been comforted by the experience of group singing. I won’t get into what I believe and don’t believe, but there is nothing quite like adding your voice to hundreds of others in a song that absolutely fills a building to bursting. Few things strike me as so sublime.
As I listened last night, I wondered if there were others in that cathedral with rheumatoid arthritis. If there were people there with cancer, with MS, recovering from surgery, grieving loss. How many of us were in pain? But our harmonies lifted above all of that; they rose, with the great ringing of the organ, into the rafters and into the night. Beyond all of us.
I love to sing because it is such a physical act; but I also love to sing because the music I produce is incorporeal. It thrusts out and away from these sore, stiff bones, this heart that doesn’t know quite what to do with itself. Singing with others reminds me that we are all so much more than our bodies. We are so much more than the things that hurt us.
The rain has turned to snow this morning. My walk to work was cold, but the sun is shining.