Oh, I do love a good pun! In fact, I love a bad pun – any old pun will do! Ahem…It has been a tradition from the beginning of our marriage that Strokeman and I find somewhere to see a production of Handel’s Messiah during the Christmas holidays. We didn’t make it every year, but we tried. Often it would be the free concert put on by the seminary nearby, and sometimes we also made it to the sing-along at a local church. Before getting married, I had been involved in several choirs over the years and had opportunity to sing various parts of this great work, so it was with great joy that I entered into this tradition with my sweet man.
This year I went alone – that is, without Strokeman. We were invited to a performance at Bass Hall in Ft. Worth, and the logistics were just a little too overwhelming for my fearful mate. As I sat there listening to the overture, I let my mind wander over the years that we had gone, and the memories that I have collected from each.
One year we ended up finding seats just in front of an old missionary kid friend from Africa that I had not seen in many years. Her family had been host to ours for many of the annual mission meetings held near her home. I have memories of staying in her room, throwing up on her mom’s couch, eating around their table, seeing the movie Young Frankenstein with them and making jokes about it all the way home. I have memories of them coming to our house for Christmas. It was a lovely surprise to see her, and hug her, and let her pass through my life again for a brief moment.
One year Strokeman invited a friend from work along with his new wife. I remember it because it took a tremendous amount of mental effort to keep the conversation going with this woman who was from a very different world than ours. I remember it also because she asked me out of the blue if I read a lot. A bit surprised at her question, I admitted to being an avid reader. She said she could tell because of the way I talk – big vocabulary.
The year we began to go to the sing-along at a local church I got my own copy of the score, and we practiced the songs with the choir at our church before going together to the performance. It was then that I realized that the songs I knew had all been learned while I was a soprano. Many of the notes were pretty impossible for me to hit any more, and it became clear why they asked that people not sing along with the guest soloists.
One year we invited Pastor Larry and his wife to go to dinner and the Messiah with us. After they graciously agreed, I found out that our pastor pretty much hated going to concerts of this kind. Oops. He sweetly said he would enjoy spending time with us in any venue, but it was an eye opener to find that even though the theology is good, and Larry loves music, he doesn’t like to sit in a concert to listen to it. Being the wicked soul that I am, I threatened to invite him every year.
Strokeman has an old program of a performance in which the scripture references of each song are listed. He likes to bring that along so that he can trace the gospel message through the Bible as the music plays. He always voices his disappointment when he is handed a program that doesn’t list the texts. As for me, I like to bring my book of the music, and sing along in my head. There is an alto solo and a soprano solo that I dream of singing when I get to heaven (counting on God giving me a new voice to go with my new body).
A few years ago we learned that John Newton had written a commentary on the texts of Handel’s Messiah. He was concerned that it was so popular in his day that people were going to see it without ever considering the message of the words. I can relate to Newton in this. I often wonder as I look around the room how many of the people present have considered the exposition of Scripture going on in the midst of the beautiful music. It is rich. The commentary is also rich – of course I bought it!
This year I sat with my son and his girlfriend’s family in the beautiful Bass Hall. It was hard to be there without my Strokeman. I missed sharing this with him. But I am thankful to be able to add to the memories the beauty of the hall, watching a good friend of my children have her debut on the stage singing in the chorus, and building on the relationship I have with these relatively new friends.
We have these moments.