Alleluia

I’ve had a piece of music on my mind for the last few days: Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia.” It’s a gorgeous piece written for SATB choir and the story goes that it was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky for the opening of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. Koussevitzky had actually commissioned Thompson to write an exciting fanfare for the event, but Thompson and the rest of the world had just learned of the fall of France in 1940 and felt that such a piece would be inappropriate.

The lyrics are made up of only two words: Alleluia and Amen and Amen only once at the end of the piece. Alleluia is a word that can have so many meanings depending on the tone in which it’s spoken or sung. It’s a very versatile word. Thompson, when he wrote this piece, said it is a “very sad piece… The music in my particular Alleluia cannot be made to sound joyous.” And that’s true. But I also hear peace and tranquility. I also hear praise in the face of utter despair. I hear a recognition of God’s power and love even when circumstances would steer us to curse him as Job’s wife suggested (Job 2:9).

I suggest listening to the piece and using it as a short meditation. It always helps me to find some perspective when things are dark, stressful, and out of my control.

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