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They Placed It In Our Hands and Asked Us To Sing

In spaces of time, of which I have no business indulging, because of its lack of, I have been playing more and more pieces of my collection from the “piano years.” The years when I was playing a lot.

I haven’t touched it in decades, but there is one piece, written my Mendelson, that has been running through my mind, because I miss it, and I have been yearning to play it again — for its beauty. Tonight, I finally pulled it out of my archive, after searching and searching for it.  Weathered, and yellowed, just like it should be.

And the story behind the piece goes like this:

There was a horrendous, tragic car accident that killed several of our classmates as they were leaving a basketball game. One was my next door neighbor. The weight of this event on our small, small town, was… immense.

As young friends, we twisted our hands and tried to wrap our heads around these new memories — grappling with the reality of death that touched us so swiftly, so deeply, and so inescapably.  There was no place to run from this…

But, I do remember this. We gathered in an old church, with wooden pews — all of us — the entire school — went to a church. They handed us this piece of music, that we had never heard before — or had we already been practicing it in choir practice? There were many moving parts in this piece — it was difficult — yet so beautiful. The harmony and movement of the stanzas were almost reminiscent of the “rounds” we used to sing of Row, Row, Row your Boat.

The music was just intricate enough to make us focus — counting the measures for our own parts, and searching for the note to carry the harmony. Just enough to take our minds off of the grief, and onto something constructive, soothing and purposeful.

And the words… the words have been ingrained in my memory all of these years — and seeing them again tonight, I realized how precious they were at that time…

He watching over Israel

slumbers not nor sleeps

He slumbers not nor sleeps

shouldst thou walking in grief, languish,

He will quicken thee….

and how precious and wise were those hands that place this piece of music in our hands for such a time as that…

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