“Do Not Be Afraid.”


 

“Do not be afraid………..
you……are mine.”   — Isaiah 43.
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Choral music used to be a given in mainstream American life. From the patriotic holidays through the public school concerts, the sound of people singing in four part harmony presented by a collective larger than a family around a piano seemed impermeable by any shift in the cultural wind.
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Little would any of us in arts education realize that the times, and the weather, would change so profoundly. In the five final years of my public tenure, I had to endure being told there would no longer be time in the daily elementary school schedule for a chorus class. And — my students!  Two part harmony, among primary aged children. But, oh. Yes. Better, so said the powers that assumed authority, that time be spent bouncing a ball around or chasing another – or, eating soy patties on roll with boiled vegetables. Time, and money, going instead toward that which bailed on a vital source of nourishment.
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Nourishment, you argue. Singing with other humans as anything more than a casual diversion?
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This past Friday night, I’d been invited to perform as cellist with the northwestern Pennsylvania District 2 Student High School Chorus. My instrument, a clarinet, and a horn, had been added to one of several pieces of music programmed for their public concert. And, we enjoyed our collaboration, immensely. The students had come from among the very best their schools had to offer, and their guest conductor was nothing short of a marvel.
Happy with our performance, we’d left the stage intending to take in the remainder of the concert. Waiting at the auditorium door for the signal of applause, we’d stepped discreetly into the back of the hall. The temperature elevated by a packed house, a rush of body heat flooded us. And, the room was dark. But, what was about to emanate from the fully illuminated stage would render all senses irrelevant.
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I’d been impressed by Dr. Christopher Kiver, from the moment we’d been introduced. He had 200 + high school students in the palm of his hand. A Brit, his dry, observational humor infused his every breath, capturing the students’ imagination as he wove them from rhythmic riffs through the contours of phrase. Further investigation revealed that Dr. Kiver had proved his worth far and wide, known for his work with students at Penn State University and beyond.
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But, what happened to me in the moments about to ensue as I stood in that dark auditorium I owe only in part to his expertise. The rest I leave to the reader, and the mysteries of the universe.
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Dr. Kiver had chosen the program. A panel had chosen the soloists, from among several auditionees, one of whom had just completed her offering. The order of selections sat in my bag on the floor, unreadable in the dark. Two female choristers took their places across the front of the stage, and Dr. Kiver raised his baton to the choir.
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Their pure unison tone began, hushed, absolutely controlled. Each syllable measured, the opening phrase emerged in one, clear, enveloping voice:
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“Do……not………be……..afraid……………………………………….”
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The harmonies expanded. Their sustain was seamless.
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“Do…….not………be………afraid……………………………………..”
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Without any warning, whatsoever, the choir became one voice in the firmament.
The verses unfolded; I recognized them as scripture. But, the music had transcended thought, to become the vehicle of the oracle of the divine.
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Standing in the dark, I was a child again. The world around me, and everyone else, all of us terror-stricken, shell shocked, every institution threatened, all future expectations uncertain, but this voice. It were as if the God of my childhood were speaking directly to me, my eternal protector, the loving Creator who had promised me everlasting safety.
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Tears poured down my face. Everyone around me was spellbound, as well. We were all collective witness to the deepest of human power, manifesting the very message for which we were starving, through the only art form that could possibly have carried it to us.  We didn’t have to fear. We had been redeemed. We were still loved, perfectly. And, our God had just sung us a lullaby.
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……………………………………
….When you walk through the waters,
I’ll be with you;
you will never sink beneath the waves.
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When the fire is burning all around you,
you will never be consumed by the flames.
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When the fear of loneliness is looming,
then remember I am at your side.
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When you dwell in the exile of a stranger,
remember you are precious in my eyes.
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You are mine, O my child,
I am your Father,
and I love you with a perfect love.”
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“Do Not Be Afraid” —  Philip Stopford.
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© 2/6/16 Ruth Ann Scanzillo   — Thank you for your respect, both for the created work of Philip Stopford, the interpretation of Dr. Kiver, and this my piece.
littlebarefeetblog.com
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6 thoughts on ““Do Not Be Afraid.”

  1. Lovely! We used to use the old 1662 church order of service, we sang 2 psalms every sunday – thats going back a bit, I think they modernised with a new vicar mid 70’s, we weren’t the best singers around, but there is something about that style which takes the scriptures directly to a spiritual level!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Psalm singing, plus Bach’s Chorales, are ethereally beautiful. They are, in Bach’s case, musically perfect – and, when in service to the text, beyond compare. I think Philip Stopford really was inspired when he wrote “Do Not Be Afraid”, and Christopher Kiver’s interpretation created the synergy that brought this to light. It doesn’t come off nearly as effectively when sung by a stiff, formal, traditional choir; there was something about the tempo and the sustain in Kiver’s rendition with the students that just reduced me to rubble.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am in tears reading this RA… I have never talked with you one on one about my love of hymns and 4 part a cappella hymn singing, folk song, spirituals, choral singing, etc. I am so happy that you sent this to me. It is EXACTLY what I needed to hear and I just know that we are bonded as sisters on a cellular level. Thank you Thank you Thank you — L

    Liked by 2 people

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