The following was re-posted from Jason Chan’s personal blog, My Spiritual Suitcase.
Through my two years of Teacher’s College at Redeemer University, I had the incredible privilege of being a part of the Redeemer Concert Choir. It all started when I had spontaneously signed up for an audition at the end of my first week of school not knowing that I would be enrolling in an actual course for credit, meet some incredibly talented friends and discover the world of choral music.
One Choir, Many Parts
There’s something about an ensemble that generates a unique bond, as you and your voice are woven into a community and a sound so unique that no other ensemble can recreate. The music you make can only be created when you are all together – the voices of basses, tenors, altos and sopranos blend to produce beautiful harmonies and dissonances to provoke emotion, tell a story, or share a message.
It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12 which talks about how body of Christ – one body, many parts. Just as the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”; the tenor cannot say to the alto, “I don’t need you”. Even within each section, all members must be present or the sound changes in balance – the importance of commitment is emphasized and pulling your weight matters. If one part of the body suffers (be it sickness or being unprepared), the whole body suffers.
I marvel at the perfect and careful construction that you can see outlined in every score. Each section holds of a note at a specific frequency, which then with other parts make up a chord, embedded within a context or phrase, that forms and strings together a piece of music, associated with a word or syllable to paint the text to the listener. And then to consider that there was a mind that was able to fathom, write and compose such music, hearing it all in his head and then writing it down? Then there is the whole mathematical side to music! Are you not mind-blown yet? And this is scratching the surface! All this is possible only because of how God designed and ordered acoustics and math in our world!
My only “regret” with being in choir was my inability to truly appreciate the music because this was a world I had not explored so deeply. Be it the terminology used in rehearsal, the complexity in the pieces we sung, or the beauty in the spaces we performed in. I wish I could’ve understood the fulness and magnitude of it all. Thankfully I made some friends who we were willing to grant me small glimpses of insight to what I was missing out on based on what I did or could understand.
The Dissonance in Life
It also turns out that music goes beyond just the notation, technique, composition and performance. A friend of mine had me consider the idea of dissonance. Dissonance is a harmony that doesn’t sound perfect, it could be described as a “crush”; when the sound doesn’t seem jive together in a satisfying way. Consider Crucifixus, Mass in B Minor by Bach below, one we had in our choir repertoire this year. Can you hear the dissonance?
In music, dissonances can be used by composers to help provoke emotion or paint the text. In Crucifixus, the lyrics tell of the crucifixion of Christ, and is painted with sorrowful and crushing harmonies to depict and convey the pain that was being experienced. However, dissonances are usually resolved within a piece of music, harmonies move from discord to accord. The harsher and further you lean into dissonance, the sweeter the resolution will be.
This can also be applied to our understanding and love of the gospel. The more we understand our depravity and wickedness without and before Christ and as a result, the punishment and condemnation we are due, the sweeter and more beautiful the grace and Gospel of Jesus Christ is, that He would sacrifice and lay down his life for us, paid our debt, forgive us our sin so that we may know and fellowship with God. Amazing love, how can it be!
Romans 8:18-21 – “For I know that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits in eager longer for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation itself was subjected to futility, not willingly but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from the bondage of corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
For the Christian, we believe and hold firm in faith that the dissonance in this life will be resolved in the next. We wait for the glory, the full and complete redemption of our bodies, free from sin, and in full fellowship with God for eternity! For the Christian, the best is yet to come. But unfortunately, for the unregenerate one who rejects God and despises His Word, this present life is the best that it’ll ever get before eternal damnation as the scriptures warn. But God is ever patient and desires that all repent (2 Peter 3:9). The day of the Lord is near, repent while there is still time for there comes a day when it will be too late. The God of the Universe waits and invites you into fellowship with Him.
Revelation 3:20 – “Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Being in the Redeemer Concert Choir over the past two years has been an incredible blessing. My eyes have been open and there is a new thirst to learn, appreciate and explore the beauty and order within and behind what we all know and love as music. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite pieces from the past two years, “The Ground” by Oja Gjeilo.