This afternoon, I will join with over 150 voices of the North Carolina Master Chorale to sing Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. This is my first time to perform this beloved masterpiece, though I have heard recordings of it many times before over the years. This piece has a storied history of performance over the century and half since its composition, but I most remember the quickly-organized performance by the New York Philharmonic on September 20, 2001, in memory of the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City just nine days earlier.
The text chosen by Brahms for Ein deutsches Requiem is not that of the traditional requiem mass but rather of biblical texts meant to offer comfort to the living. In these days of conflict and strife, words like these are all the more important to sing and share. Sometimes the words we sing and the music that makes them live are certainly enough, but today, in light of the dark clouds gathering around us, the walls being built to keep people from finding safety and hope, and the uncertainty of the coming days, I feel like I need to say a bit more about why I sing this piece today.
Today I sing for family and friends who have died, for the gift of their lives in shaping mine, and for the memories that continue to flow.
Today I sing for the victims of terrorism, on 9/11 and before and beyond, for those whose lives were cut short by violence of every sort.
Today I sing for armed forces everywhere, for police officers and firefighters and EMTs, for those who work every day to protect us and lead us and guide us.
Today I sing for government officials in my own nation and around the world who work for peace and goodwill and cooperation that sustains the fullness of life.
Today I sing for those who long for peace, even a peace that looks different from what I have come envision through my own prayer and study.
Today I sing for all who mourn death in so many ways, particularly those whose loved ones have been killed by injustice, terrorism, war, poverty, strife, and heartbreak.
Today I sing for a Church that does its best to sing for others, even though it sometimes falls short, and for my own church that is not afraid to speak up for the vulnerable and oppressed.
Today I sing for those who are afraid and allow themselves to live in fear, for those who have allowed violence to win the day by seeking vengeance, for those who seek something different but know no other way that the discord we have known and sown.
Today I sing for refugees and displaced persons everywhere, for their immediate comfort and safety, for their longing to return home, for their hope of some way out of the difficult and challenging days that they face.
Today I sing for those we are called to welcome as guests in our midst, for the stranger who knocks at our door, for the person on the side of the road who needs our help, and for those who reach out and respond in hope.
Today I sing for people who have been singled out by the world as different in one way or another, for people of color, for LGBTQ persons, for immigrants and migrants, for Muslims and Jews and Christians, for all those who need to know that God loves them and need to feel that divine love expressed in human affection.
Today I sing for my sisters and brothers who proclaim the gospel each and every day, whether they be Christian or Jewish or Muslim or other or claim no faith at all, whether they be ordained or not, whether they they use words or not.
Today I sing for all those who show that God’s love cannot and will not be limited by any limit of our human minds.
And today I sing for a new heaven and a new earth, as the little work I can do today to make a new and different way visible in the here and now, for the power of God to mold us and shape us and transform us and make us new.
Wherever you are, however you raise your voice, I hope you will sing too.