A tapestry of song

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.

—Carole King, Tapestry

When we arrived home from the Tapestry Singers annual Valentine’s Day cabaret concert, I counted up the musical numbers listed in the program. There were exactly twenty — a full musical score.

The songs ranged from Broadway hits to country ballads, patriotic medleys to spiritual worship songs. For two hours we were treated to poignant arrangements of pieces like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Enya’s “Only Time,” Jerry Herman’s “Ribbons Down My Back” and Irving Berlin’s “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” Mark Hayes’ “Consecration” and Marie Barnett’s “Breathe.” For the grand finale there was a special rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”

This annual event was the brainchild of Jana Pivácek-Cole, a talented vocalist and voice teacher, who succumbed to cancer at the close of last year. Since 1998, Jana’s Tapestry Singers, composed of former voice students of all ages,  has offered public performances to raise financial support for the Kateri Medical Clinic in the Kaduna province of northern Nigeria.

Without the benefit of Kateri Medical Clinic, thousands of Nigerians who reside in the region would have no access to medical care. Last year over 14,000 people received care at Kateri for the amazingly low cost of $5 per encounter.

As I sat through this moving musical repertoire, I reflected on our medical mission to Nigeria last summer. We saw nearly 6,000 patients in a 2-week stretch. Many more were unable to access care during our stay; although the needs were great, the workers were relatively few.

When my eyes began to water, I wasn’t entirely certain why. It might have been the poignant pieces of music I heard — or perhaps the memories of those Nigerian patients I had seen. Both sets of voices were certainly present, and together they sounded sweet and low in my ear.

In a Paris Review interview literary critic George Steiner opined:

The next Copernicus may have something to tell us about what music does inside us and how it is created. Above all, music illustrates for me that order of meaning that you can’t translate, can’t paraphrase, can’t put in any other terms, and yet which is intensely meaningful.

Some say that music can heal the heart; I know it can heal the soul. Perhaps it is even capable of moving beyond the borders of space and time to touch the lives of others in need, continents away.

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4 comments on “A tapestry of song

  1. Bill Vincent says:

    Hi Brian,

    Unfortunately, I never got to go to Nigeria. I went down to Haitii as a medical missionary to set up a lab for St. Vincent’s Hospital for Crippled Children. I got home on a wing and a prayer (literally) with some cardiac problems kicking in. Bishop Josiah wanted me to go to Nigeria and set up a lab for them but I was never able to do it. I guess we can do just so many things for the Lord! I’m sure He understands.

    God Bless

    Bill Vincent

  2. Brian, I was quite moved by last weekend’s concert, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think others at Trinity would enjoy reading your blog, so I linked this post to Trinity’s blog here: http://www.trinitytariffville.org/2013/02/a-trinity-blogger-to-follow/.

    Let me know if you ever want to guest blog on the Trinity site!

    Carolyn

  3. Charlene Peterson says:

    Dear Brian,
    I thank you for your thoughts regarding Tapestry Singers and the Tapestry of life in general. As I ponder, and tear up, over the enormous emotion of the program, I thank God I was able to be a part of all of it. I share my youngest born daughter with another part of Africa, and I am aware of the overwhelming need of the entire continent. We are fortunate to be able to assist in one small area of need, because the help grows as others become aware.
    Thank you again for your eloquent words..
    Charlene Peterson
    A Tapestry Singer

  4. alexanderbayne@comcast.net says:

    I’m sad not to have been there. Alex

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