Here we are, moving into the tail end of the summer season. As we look forward to the beginning of a new school year and a change in the light and the weather, let's let music accompany our transition.
Got a song you just love? Email email@example.com to tell Jeff about it!
Today, our reflection comes from friend of WPPC Ben Bryant. He emailed me in response to Wednesday's a cappella songs from The Real Group. He was reminded of the strong harmonic vocal traditions in Scandinavia, which led him to share this particular arrangement of Leonard Cohen's chestnut, "Hallelujah." (Given the general familiarity of this song and the fact that Ben includes a couple of verses in his remarks, I'll leave it to you if you'd like to check out all of the verses here.) Here's what Ben had to say: "'Hallelujah,' like much good poetry, leaves me with a strong sense of something expressed that resists complete interpretation…something words alone cannot contain, but only hint at (one meaning of “ineffable”). The song involves the dance of spirit and flesh in the complexity, fragility, and ineffability of the power and mystery in the moments of getting it right...when the spirit and the flesh are one: “When every breath we drew was Hallelujah.” It is perhaps too easy to see “Hallelujah” as a song for those who acknowledge having felt sanctified by experiencing the ecstasy of union of flesh and spirit, and now feel unmoored after losing that connection. Yet the simple refrain of the chorus, while changed by the context of each verse, refuses to ever yield the “blaze of light” in every iteration of each “hallelujah,” and to my mind gains power when voices join in harmony. The “hallelujah” Cohen invokes originates in the deep traditional sense of “hallelujah”: "In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hillel. However, "hallelujah" means more than simply "praise Jah" or "praise Yah", as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God.” -Wikipedia There are two verses of the many that Cohen wrote, that while often left out, seem meaningful. Cohen’s “God” here seems to be the “Lord of Song,” and his personal hallelujah gives voice, in song, to the persistence of ineffable spirit in the world…in spite of everything.
You say I took the name in vain I don't even know the name But if I did, well, really, what's it to you? There's a blaze of light in every word It doesn't matter which you heard The holy or the broken Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah I did my best, it wasn't much I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you And even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
One You Tube comment I found on some version of the song said "Everyone has their own personal 'hallelujah' to add to the harmony.” (I tried to find it again to credit her or him, but couldn’t) I like that. Adding a voice in upwelling praise for the spirit that calls us to the world, again and again to try to get it right. Whatever it is.
God of All Hallelujahs,
I contribute mine today.
We also pray for these, shared in worship this week:
For the continued work of making reparations real for the Indigenous and Black communities of Seattle
Even in our separation, God, help us to feel the deep delight of your love for all. Amen.