by Cass DuCharme
published in Family Matters eNewsletter, February 23, 2017
This past weekend, Ruth and I had the opportunity to go to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall. An event that I never dreamed would be on my “bucket list” is now checked off. We were invited by Stanley Roberts, along with about 100 other musicians, to join the Mercer Singers and McDuffie Strings to perform John Rutter’s Requiem, a work that I have known and loved for years.
When I was a student at Carson-Newman College, now University, I had the good fortune of singing in the A Cappella Choir. Mr. Rutter came to C-N my senior year and lead us in his edition of Faure’s Requiem. He told us at the time that he was working on a Requiem of his own that would soon be published. Two years later it was, and it has been a treasured work for the past 30 years.
When Ruth and I were first invited to go on this trip, we were in the middle of planning Caitlyn’s wedding. We weren’t sure if this trip was going to work out for us. But, after a lot of praying, planning, AND practicing, it did and we had an experience we’ll never forget.
As all of you know, New York City is kind of a world of it’s own. From the moment we arrived, the sights, sounds, and smell of NYC permeated our very being. Throughout the weekend we had opportunity to take in quite a bit of this fair city. We went to a taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers. We saw a Broadway show and ate at some delicious restaurants which included Carmine’s, Serafina’s, with the best Tiramisu ever, and Junior’s, known for it’s awesome cheesecake.
On Saturday morning we took the subway down to the 9/11 Memorial. This event was a bittersweet time for us as we saw all of the names of those who lost their lives in that terrible tragedy. However, we also saw hope as we looked across the street from the memorial and saw the historic St. Paul’s Chapel. This church withstood the Great Fire of 1776, hosted George Washington on his Inauguration Day, and survived the 9/11 attacks with only one broken window. As Ruth mentioned on her Facebook page that day, “There is something holy about being in this place today and then stepping into a rehearsal of Rutter's Requiem and singing the LUX AETERNA – ‘ I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours.’”
On Sunday morning, we had the privilege of worshiping with Brett, Carol, and Caleb Younger at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, where Brett is now the pastor. This historic church has seen the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a major stopping point of the “underground railroad” where many slaves found their freedom. From its beginnings to today, it continues to be a light just across the harbor from the Statue of Liberty.
And, oh yeah, on Sunday evening we sang Rutter’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall. I have sung and conducted in many churches and venues throughout my years as a student and church musician but I must admit, there was something really special about singing at Carnegie Hall. We closed the concert with an arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Mack Wilberg. The last line says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above.” As we sang the last note, chills went down my spine and my heart was full.
The day we left, we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This Catholic church is one of the largest in the world and has been visited by many popes. In all of its pomp and circumstance, I happened to notice in one of the alcoves a small statue of Mother Teresa, that petite nun who served the poorest of the poor in God’s name.
Someone once asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The reply was, “practice, practice, practice.” That same reply is true in every lofty goal we have. It takes determination, discipline, and vision to attain anything. The same is true for our own Sanctuary Choir as we rehearse week after week. Shouldn’t we work just as hard to present our music in worship as we do at Carnegie Hall? See you Wednesday night choir, we’ve got some practicing to do.