April 12, 2011

No Coward Soul is Mine

i went home this weekend to see the mercersburg area community chorus perform their spring concert. one of the things i miss most since moving from home is being able to sing with the chorus, so seeing the performance was bittersweet.


sitting in the chapel, hearing an orchestra and gorgeous choral music - i understand it's not for everyone. but it made me long to be up there making the music with everyone. i imagine athletes must feel this way when they watch someone else play their sport: it's fun to watch, but you'd rather be in the game.

the concert featured two major works: the first, haydn's famous oratorio the creation, and a newly commissioned piece by ola gjeilo entitled no coward soul is mine, whose lyrics are drawn from the poem of the same name by emily bronte. gjeilo composed the piece for the community chorus this year, to honor their 35th anniversary. i got to hear it performed for the first time -- and it was beautiful. its first performance has been uploaded to youtube - here it is:

the lyrics (or the poem, i suppose) felt especially poignant to me while i'm in a season of waiting, wondering, doubting, and more waiting. so here it is:

"no coward soul is mine" 

no coward soul is mine,
no trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
i see heaven's glories shine,
and faith shines equal, arming me from fear.

o God within my breast
almighty, ever-present Deity!
life -- that in me has rest,
as i -- undying Life -- have power in thee!

vain are the thousand creeds
that move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
worthless as withered weeds,
or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

to waken doubt in one
holding so fast by thine infinity;
so surely anchored on
the steadfast rock of immortality.

with wide-embracing love
thy spirit animates eternal years,
pervades and broods above,
changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

though earth and man were gone,
and suns and universes ceased to be,
and Thou were left alone,
every existence would exist in Thee.

there is not room for Death,
nor atom that his might could render void:
thou -- THOU are Being and Breath,
and what THOU are may never be destroyed.

- emily bronte

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