Qui Tollis

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Wahnfried Haus, Bayreuth Richard Wagner’s house

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Residenz, Würzburg

Music has played a big role in my life for as long as I can remember. This is probably and hopefully true for many. Harmony was learned in the car on rides across the state. Listening to the  gospel quartet my dad was a part of and singing their songs reinforced the joy of four part harmony.  I learned 2nd soprano as mom was an alto and my sister a soprano. (I really didn’t have a choice.) There was triple trio in junior high, East Singers in high school, travelling with New Way singers, working with teen choirs in Arizona and Nebraska, church cantatas, musicals and accompanying for more choirs, groups and soloists than I can recall. Years and years of piano lessons were most valuable when I lived in Europe for I found myself grateful for all that I had learned about composers thanks to a teacher who was thorough. I was fortunate to sit at a piano Richard Wagner had played and my fingers found their way across the keyboard at the home in Bayreuth, Germany. I can close my eyes and hear the instruments playing at the Mozart festival in Würzburg, Germany. That was a beautiful evening on the lawn of the Residenz. Operas in Vienna and the Philharmonic in Berlin are not to be forgotten. The organ and the chants of the Monks at Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria and Kiss Me Kate at the Volkstheater (people’s theater) in Vienna helped round out the musical exposure.

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Orangerie The Music Hall

While I have participated and enjoyed many types of music, I am reflecting on choral music as for the past few days a portion of music I once sang has been playing through my mind. Twenty-nine years ago while studying at  Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, I asked to audition for the university choir. Another girl from the states joined me and we biked our way to the Orangerie for Chorprobe (choir practice.) Perhaps the Chorleiter (choir director) liked the idea of having a couple of foreign students, or maybe he was just gracious, but we were welcomed into the choir which undoubtedly had far more serious music students than Laura from Boston and Diane from Lincoln. It’s not that we didn’t take the practices seriously, we just weren’t pursuing vocal music as a vocation.

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Laura from Boston and Diane from Lincoln

 It was wonderful to be a part of the choir and it did a great deal to increase my German vocabulary, even though the music we performed was done in Latin. 🙂

qui tollisWeeks before our choir concert, while on a foreign student tour to East and West Berlin I scored a couple of tickets to a hear the H-Moll-Messe (Mass in B Minor) by J. S. Bach performed in the Kaiser-Wilhem-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.) How fortuitous on many counts. First, it’s a concert in Berlin. Second, it’s a beautiful concert in Berlin. Third, it’s the very music that our choir was rehearsing and preparing to perform.

I remember a great deal about that time. I recall singing with Laura as we would ride our bikes across town in the evenings after rehearsals.  I recall a wonderful potluck the choir members held. The food was delicious and the other members were wonderful to excuse us as we arrived very under dressed for the evening that included a string ensemble and ballroom dancing. They were also gracious to forgive our ineptness in comparison to their dancing skills.The experience with the choir was truly wonderful. The soloists were top notch and to preform with an orchestra from Nürnberg in the St. Lorenz Kirche was beyond description.

I recall my audition was somewhat informal with the director and pianist. The director allowed me to pick a section of the Mass that we had been working on and I knew immediately which portion I would choose. There’s a wonderful alto line in the Qui Tollis section.

As I pause even now, I can hear it.

The audition went well. It was probably the most comfortable I have even been auditioning.  Go figure. A language student from the Midwest, off on a study abroad adventure in Germany, singing a Latin Mass.

All that backstory to set the stage for a few short nights ago. It’s been a tough season. Some days better that others. Some nights easier to fall asleep than others. I’m confident I’m not alone in this. The battle continues as I try to stay on top of the mental aspect of cancer and the treatment. All the while life continues on with changes that are tough enough on a mother’s heart, let alone when the body is weakened.

As I rested my head on the pillow, Qui Tollis came into my mind. I cannot recall other exact portions of this incredible Mass by Bach, but this section stays with me.  I have tried to find my copy of the choral music but it is currently hidden somewhere in the storeroom.

Qui Tollis

The line is repeated for the altos and it is a leading line (which doesn’t happen often for us altos) and it is long and rich.  Soothing and strong.

I’m not well versed in Latin, and did not grow up with this liturgy but am able to seek out the translation.

I’m not sure I need a faith “alert” given I’ve referenced the Mass and liturgy, but you’ve been duly alerted. 🙂  Thanks for joining in!

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,

miserere nobis.

have mercy upon us.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,

miserere nobis.

have mercy upon us.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,

dona nobis pacem.

grant us peace.

The section I was singing in my head is maybe 16-20 measures in length.  It is certainly brief in the scope of this incredible musical composition. It’s what I remember and it’s what came into my mind. Just as I concluded those few measures, one lone but forceful clap of thunder was heard. I took a deep breath, smiled and found rest.  For me, at that moment, I felt that the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins (qui tollis) of the world was reminding me that He is here. That I am not battling alone. 

This may sound strange, even foreign to some. But I am thankful for the peace granted in that moment and even now as some days are better than others.



As a means to update: Monday will begin treatment number ten.  I’m grateful to be stepping closer to the end.

Please pray I can continue to stay on the scheduled course. Pray for strength as the climb is hard right now. Pray for healing.

Thank you to those you continue to partner with us in the thing. It continues to be weird and the Flummox (see the previous blog post) is still present, but we will get through this and the end is getting closer!!

2 thoughts on “Qui Tollis

  1. I love your musings, Diane. I am not well versed in music, as you are, but I love listening and I am blessed by great choral music, especially. Praying for you daily as you continue your fight against this cancer. I know you are missing Laura and Meg as they begin school years in their respective places.

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