The Wings of a Dove
Gabriella Brand on finding music in the silence
“Choral singing is a super-spreader”, texted my son, Thomas, at the beginning of the Covid crisis. “Elm City Girls’ Choir won’t be back up for a long time, maybe years.”
I gulped hard. No Elm City Girls’ Choir? Just when we need to hear them the most. Just when we need to be uplifted.
How many times have I listened to this choir and felt myself unburdened? After 9/11, after tsunamis, or school shootings, the performers of Elm City Girls’ Choir were always there with their young hopes, their energy, and their cultivated sound.
I remember an ECGC performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “O for the Wings of a Dove”. The choir was positioned up in the balcony. The high voices flew around the concert hall like birds themselves and the ethereal sound transported me away from my current worries.
In the wilderness build me, build me a nest.
At the end of the song, all the voices grew so soft, yet audible, as if a flock of doves were simply rustling.
Oh, to remain there forever at rest.
In the midst of Covid, I crave Mendelssohn and I ache to go to a choir concert. I want to read program notes and to feel a link with the past as I read about the composer dismissing the hastily-constructed piece as a “trifle”. I want to look into the faces of the singers. I want to feel the synergy between choristers and director. To observe posture, nod, smile, and all the gestures of conducting.
Since I can’t attend a live performance, I close my eyes and hear the music in my head. I imagine the rituals, the black dresses, the encores. I remind myself that choral music has survived other pandemics throughout history. I have to trust that both Mendelssohn and the choir will be there for us again.
Gabriella Brand’s short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in over fifty literary magazines. Her latest work can be found in Comstock Review, Aji, and Rockvale Review. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives near New Haven, Connecticut, where she teaches foreign languages, works with refugees, and runs writing classes in the OLLI program at UCONN.
The Elm City Girls’ Choir was founded in 1993. They have performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Disney World. The ECGC is regarded as one of America’s finest youth choirs.