In the summer we usually make a pilgrimage of sorts to visit family in Minnesota lake country. I generally think at least once on such a trip—usually while sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake—“I wish I could just stay here forever.”
In 1991 I attended the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Dallas with thousands of other high school kids from across the country and around the world for worship, service and Bible study. In addition to being fun and exciting, the trip expanded my view of and encounter with the church.
It’s the second movement of Leonard Bernstein’s choral work, Chichester Psalms. A boy soprano (or a countertenor), in the “role” of the shepherd boy, David, sings in Hebrew the opening verses of Psalm 23. He is accompanied–sparingly, fittingly–by the harp. The first several measures are tender but not tentative; filled with sentiment, but without sentimentality (this per Bernstein’s instructions). When the women’s voices take over the text at גַּם כִּי־אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת . . . (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .) there’s an ethereal echo-canon effect. This part of the movement, when executed well, is something sublime.