Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Holy City

It’s so funny how things come back to bite you in the derriere – NOT! Every year for Palm Sunday the Music Director of my former congregation, in cooperation with the choir and one of the soloist would sing a piece that I disliked, ALOT. The piece, The Holy City by Stephen Adams and Richard Crooks was loved by many congregants and even requested! In addition to the palms waving in the air The Holy City was a staple at our Palm Sunday services.

To me it sounded schmaltzy, calliope-ish, and old fashioned. When it began I no longer saw the soloist in his fine red choir robe but standing there with a handlebar mustache and red stripped vest belting out or maybe even bleating the refrain “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing, Hosanna through the ages, Hosanna to your King.” When the piece began I would look at my colleague and very discreetly roll my eyes up into my head.

Well, I got bit tonight here in that Holy City, Jerusalem. It was, as usual, a stunning evening in Jerusalem. The heat of the day dissipated and the cool breeze set in. A few stars popped out in the evening sky as we sat in the Tomb of the Kings in East Jerusalem. The history of the Tomb goes back to 45 CE when the Queen of Mesopotamia fell in love with Jerusalem and decided that it was here she wanted to bury her son. The tombs were cut into the rock and included a cave with a decorated façade. We sat surrounded by the high walls of the tombs which served as a memorial structure used for ceremonies. And it is here that the Palestine Youth Orchestra gave a beautiful concert as part of the Jerusalem Festival 08.

The Palestine Youth Orchestra brings together Palestinian musicians from around the world comprised of 50 young people residing in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, the USA and Europe. This was the first year in their five year history that they were able to perform in their homeland due to restrictions on entry. The first half of the program included excerpts from Aram Khachaturian’s Gayane Ballet Suite No 2 and 3. Everyone got fired up when they began to play Sabre Dance from the Suite.

The second half of the program featured Palestinian orchestral music celebrating Jerusalem. The three female vocalists were of opera caliber. Their voices blended so beautifully with the orchestra that I got chills. All of the pieces were sung in Arabic except for one song. You guessed it, The Holy City.

OK, it got to me. I admit it. I guess sometimes you’ve just ‘got to be there’ to understand. I have a whole new appreciation for this song because I can see and understand and picture in my mind’s eye the gates rising and the people singing Hosanna to our King. You can listen to an excerpt if you aren’t familiar with the piece. It still sounds like it needs a calliope accompaniment but not so much now anymore. Now I understand the power of the words and the grand, imposing sound of the notes.

Excuse me now while I go to bandage a festering wound.


Heather said...

Suzie, the music director who was had to play the wonderful piece, every Palm Sunday I must say...OH MY!!!! Is it not funny how things come back to haunt you???? When you come to visit I will definitely play it for you, should I invite the soloist over too??!!! LOLOLOLOLOL
Can't wait to see you.

Heather said...

Hey Suzie, not sure if my last post the previous music director who was forced to play the calliope for said piece, your post CRACKED ME UP!!!!! Oh, the fun times we had. Glad the piece followed you to Jerusalem! When you visit, I will definitely play it for you....NOT!

Suzanne said...

I knew that you would crack up...I had you in mind as I was listening. It definately needs a female voice.

Brother Richard said...

The palm tree photograph is very artsy. Hope you continue your visual mission when you come home.


chuck said...

Wow! I've never heard that one before. It is truly ghastly. It makes me "Suicidal". Can't wait to see you here in the cool pool (formerly known as the hot tub.) Safe travels. May your luggage be with you! xoxoblanca and the lovely chuck