There will be rest

When I started this blog, a little over a week ago, I needed a title.  I want to share why I chose “There will be rest.”

In music, particularly choral music (sacred or otherwise), the most transformative moments of a piece are major chord resolutions.  These are the moments where dissonance becomes Harmony. These are the moments where the direction of the piece becomes clear, and a hundred voices point in a single direction.

At the University, one of my favorite pieces I ever sang was called “There Will Be Rest,” by Frank Ticheli. The piece is slightly sacred, in the sense that there’s an overall arc of spirituality, and a general “Holiness” about the lyrics and sound. It’s not really about God per say, though. It’s about stillness, quiet, and peace–and rest, of course. The themes of the song are only partly why I chose the name, though.  In truth, I wish it was a little more on the spiritual side.

But, as I said, the real magic of the song lies in the resolutions. The song starts out dissonant and uncomfortable, in a key that simply doesn’t sound warm to our western ears.  Then, it slowly weaves in and out of a major key over the course of the first minute and a half. It becomes warmer, and even though the volume slowly builds, it somehow also becomes more gentle. Then, at the 1:40 mark, it gracefully sets a chord resolution down, as though the notes are made of the finest, most fragile crystal ever conceived, and for just a split second, there is complete serenity and peace until the tenors repeat the line and the song blooms into a beautiful garden.

There are several resolutions like that over the course of the song, and I have always held a special place in my heart. A poetic romance of the soul exists in moments like that, where the sound of gentleness and peace wash over the listeners (and singers). Your shoulders relax, your heart swells, and a content of the spirit takes all the fight out of you. That is what I’ve been seeking: resolution, love, peace, and gentleness. I pray that God’s grace grants me a serene, gentle heart, and that the discord in my soul can find that perfect harmony and quiet.

Below is a recording from a University choir from 2011.  The recording isn’t perfect, but it is very, very good, and certainly better than the most popular recording available on YouTube. The choir is mostly careful with their sibilants, they are well balanced, the tempo is perfect. This is how I remember the song feeling when I was the one in the penguin suit.

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