Monday, April 30, 2018
Morning Thanks--Sioux County Oratorio
Please don't ask me to tell you the titles of what they sang Saturday night, because pronouncing the offerings is, for me at least, a couple of continents off. I can write out the words, copy them from the program: Joseph Haydn's Missa in tempora belli (Paukenmesse), plus a short selection from Sergei Rachmaninoff, Borgoroditse Devo (from All-Night Vigil). I don't even know how to punctuate it.
Turn on your radio on the way to work this morning, and you're not likely to hear any of it; but then "Paukenmesse" (take my word) streaming from your car radio doesn't seem a fitting venue.
What the choir sang and the orchestra played on Saturday night needed to be performed in a place like Christ's Chapel at Northwestern College, just down the road, a place as grand as the music.
And it was. And the night was spectacular, an offering of riveting, perfectly gorgeous music. I could stack more adjectives, but that would be in-artful for a musical menu so rich in art.
There's more this week, I'm sure. Both nearby colleges offer end-of-year choral programs. Crowds in both schools will be moved, I'm sure, by the virtuosity of musical ensembles at both schools.
We've been blessed by astounding musical offerings in the last several months, and, as they say, the hits just keep on coming. Several of those concerts have originated from afar--a string quartet from the Netherlands, an orchestra ensemble from New York--but this one was just about all local: The Sioux County Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra, men and women with very familiar names filling the stage and the place with artistry.
Once, years ago, when the B. J. Haan was being built, I took the Siouxland novelist Frederick Manfred inside for a tour of what was in the offing. There were no pews, and the place was a mess. But the proscenium was in place, so we walked all the way up to the front, then stood center stage. He was a towering figure, 6'9" tall; but that afternoon, he seemed almost diminished--and he knew it himself. He was awestruck. With painters and electricians running around all over the place, he stood up front as if about to speak to a hushed crowd.
"You know," he told me, "if you would have told me when I was a kid that someday my people would build a place like this, something this beautiful, I wouldn't have believed it."
He wasn't talking about a building and didn't mean to praise Dordt College only. What he meant was bigger than that. What he meant was that he would have never imagined his people, ordinary people from some rural counties in far northwest Iowa, a place far away from the madding crowds, that his people would actually have opportunity to sit and listen to music as grand, as majestic, as royal as we heard on Saturday night. That's what he meant when he stood, center-stage, in a mess in Dordt's as yet unfinished chapel.
And then there's this. Saturday night, the musicians themselves, the choir and orchestra who created the musical treasure up on stage at Christ Chapel, were not from afar, not from New York or Amsterdam; they were local.
For all of that I'm greatly thankful this Monday morning.