The University Singers’ interterm concert tour always leaves its listeners thinking. In her essay the Rev. Nancy Brink, director of church relations, reflects on the sweet comfort of one song in particular.
DULCET, adjective, (especially of sound) sweet, soothing.
Dulcet. It is not a word you hear every day. But in the finale number of the Chapman University Singers 2016 tour, the phrase “dulcet melody” is in the chorus. “I’ll sing for you, I’ll play for you a dulcet melody.” There is no better description of the University Singers on their 2016 tour to Northern California.
Though I make a passable church choir alto, I am not along to lend my voice. I arrange for churches to host choir concerts and help with the Admissions promotion at high school visits. Beyond that, I am there to chat up the students, provide logistical support and friendship to Dr. Stephen Coker, and keep everyone laughing. The choir even talked Dr. Coker and me into an afternoon game of laser tag—a first for both of us. One of us was terrible, but I will never tell!
On my last day with the choir, a few students asked me what my favorite number was, since I had heard the repertoire a number of times. I found it hard to say. In every concert, a different piece called to me.
But every morning on tour I woke up hearing one particular piece in my head. It is the old American folk hymn, How Can I Keep from Singing.
My life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul: how can I keep from singing.
Between the verses, there is a quiet, repeated phrase: “My life flows on in endless song….” It sounds like a gentle brook, capturing the water imagery beautifully.
In my hymnal version of this song, the verses praise Jesus. But the arranger, Ronald Staheli, has wisely rewritten parts to make it more spiritually inclusive.
I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin. I see the blue above it.
And day by day this pathway smooths since first I learned to love it.
The peace from love makes fresh my heart, a song of hope is springing.
All things are mine since truth I’ve found: how can I keep from singing.
I look at their fresh young faces as they sing “no storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging.” They are from a variety of spiritual traditions, including none, and I find myself praying for them. I am not praying for their salvation, but that the words of this anthem might go deep in their hearts. I know it will be invaluable in the decades ahead: in job interviews, in doctor’s offices, in courtrooms, at gravesides. In whatever struggle or trial ahead, I hope that the words never leave them. I hope that they will still be able to sing their part and hear the power of the other voices around them reminding them that they are not alone.
I know that I will continue to hear its truth as I move forward. And I pray to remember– with them–that my life flows on in endless song.
Save the date for the University Singers’ Post-Tour Concert on Friday, Feb. 5, at the Fish Interfaith Center. Tickets are $15 and available by calling 714-997-6624 or online.