In memory of singers and voices

Katrina DowlingMusicLeave a Comment

Thomas Matthews Rooke: Ruth and Naomi. 1876-7. Detail.It’s a good time for mourning. As we enter our lectionary series on the book of Ruth, we play an elegy. One of our musicians has been moved to play Rachmaninov’s Elegy in E flat op.3, no.1, in memory of choir members. And when she brought this offering to the worship ministry team, they asked her to play it to commemorate lost voices as well as departed singers, because many of us have undergone physical changes that mean we can’t sing the way we used to.

In the book of Ruth, as Naomi ages, time brings her gifts as well as losses. Naomi is able to return to her homeland, to her old friends, and she is accompanied by a loving new daughter. But, for some time, she continues to be so overwhelmed by loss that she defines herself by it: she renames herself the woman whose life is bitter.

Naomi mourns for her husband and sons and for a future that is lost to her. She can commemorate the people with whom she has shared a rich life, and there is great consolation here – which is why we like to play an elegy in memory of people who are no longer with us, so we can enjoy and honour their presence in memory. But it seems harder to find a way to commemorate something we expected in the future: in Naomi’s case, the grandchildren who might have been born; in our elegy, the singing and physical ability we expected we would continue to enjoy. Maybe that’s why Naomi’s mourning period is so bitter.

If you have lost the ability to sing or play or hear or dance, have you been able to enjoy memories of your ability, in the same way we remember spending good times with our loved ones? Maybe imagine a future reunion in resurrection? Or have you found this kind of loss to be different – harder or easier to mourn?

Saku Thiagarajah will play Rachmaninov’s Elegy in E flat op.3, no.1, during the worship service at 9:30am on Sunday 7th August 2016.

Lectionary series on the book of Ruth: 31st July – 21st August 2016.

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