The Slow Reveal

Yes, I know I’ve been gone a little while!  But in this post, you’ll see how many things that we’ve been presenting at St John’s over the last six weeks finally came together this past Sunday, during our Lessons and Carols service.  One of my favorite narrative structures in books and films is the “slow reveal”– in this case, when seemingly unrelated things are eventually shown to be part of a larger pattern.  For us, it is a series of movements that we have sung since CONCORA’s Brahms Requiem concert on November 4th that are all related through a particularly rich section of the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Here is the text in its entirety.  In only 11 verses, we managed to squeeze out four different pieces of music based on this chapter!  (And it would have been five if we had had time for Elliot, our tenor section leader, to sing “Comfort Ye” from Handel’s Messiah…)

In fact, three of the four quotations come from Handel’s oratorio– only verses 6-8, “all people are grass”, comes from another piece, the second movement of Brahms’ Requiem.  Otherwise, we heard our soprano soloist, Anna Marie D’Ambrosio and our mezzo-soprano soloist, Lenore Stefanik, singing Isaiah’s words.  Below the words, I have included links to YouTube recordings of the four movements, so you can take a trip down memory lane.

All of us in the music program at St John’s wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Come join us on Christmas Eve!

Isaiah 40 

Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

Get you up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
    lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead the mother sheep.