I sang for years with an excellent 200-voice choir, the Salt Lake Choral Artists. My last concerts were sung in St. Ambrose Catholic church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Beautiful scenes in stained glass stretched floor to ceiling along both side walls. The concert-goers sat in hard oaken pews, pleasing us with loud applause. Once we performed selections from Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” a modern and moving work. “Sing God a new song,” we sang. After the concert, I noticed a stooped, white-haired man sitting in the back row, tears in his eyes. I said hello, and he thanked me for the music. I imagined some of his life’s emotions, and wrote this poem before leaving the church.
He had sung his lifetime,
raised his voice to the Lord altissimus,
lifted his broken wholeness to Kyrie in excelsis,
Qui tollis pecata mundi,
weeping to the precise glide of the white baton.
He partakes, now, from the back row,
his back twisted, head bowed—
still the tears.
Translation of the Latin:
Altissimus: The highest
Kyrie in excelsis: Lord on high
Qui tollis pecata mundi: Who took upon himself the sins of the world