I wrote this after our first full day in Cape Town, South Africa but am just now publishing it here as a blog-post! Enjoy!
- Nancy d.
It’s 10:30 p.m. here in Cape Town, and I have finally nestled down for the evening. Today was beyond amazing, or lekker, as the Afrikaans people would say. I know that if I could have only experienced this day in South Africa, just this one, infinitely glorious day, I would be leaving with a lifetime of memories preciously tucked in the pockets of my suitcase and in the pockets of my heart. I only left Ohio two days ago, yet I have already witnessed music’s inimitable ability to heal and comfort aching souls, to evoke joy as pristine and refreshing as the winds that dance off of the waters of Cape Hope, and perhaps most importantly, to transcend differences in social class, race, and culture. Only one full day spent here in South Africa, and already I am reminded of the power of music, and more importantly, the power of love.
After reflecting upon it, I’ve realized it started before we even crossed the Atlantic. For example, during our five hour lay-over in the Dulles Airport, about ten to twelve members of the Chapel Choir grabbed lunch and plopped down at a couple table in a small, open eating area. One by one, we each pulled out our music and began an impromptu rehearsal. As one might expect, a group of college kids singing four-part choral music underneath the shadow of a Dunkin’ Doughnuts kiosk drew a bit of a crowd. One woman in particular came and quietly sat at the table next to ours. We worked our way through our repertoire, and finally, we began to sing the French piece Notre Père, a setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Duruflé. I noticed John M.’s head slightly turn to his right, return to his music, and then whip back to the right. I followed in curiosity, my eyes darting to the left and falling upon the woman at the table next to us. She was singing every word of the song with us in French. Afterwards, Leah, Emily T. and I approached her and asked her where she was from. “I am from Benin,” she said. Her voice was like honey, each word dripping with an amber accent. A perfect white smile broke across her face. “The Republic of Benin. The song you were singing was in French.” Her cell phone rang, ending our conversation, but as we turned to walk away she called out to us and said, “Thank you. It was beautiful.”
During our international flight, we performed a few South African pieces from our tour for the passengers and crew aboard; many of them began to sing along, transforming our performance into an experience of sharing. I cannot even begin to describe how powerful this was- how incredibly moving. I could actually see the South African flight attendants pause in their duties as they first heard us, a slight furrow shadowing their brows until they realized they recognized the words and melodies swelling in the cabin. Then, I could mark the brief, yet exact moment when their confused faces shifted and exploded into exuberant smiles. Some stewards danced in the aisles as they sang with us. As we belted out the South African National Anthem, one steward stood upright and placed his hand over his heart. Each shared moment of pride, each instant of breathtaking beauty, was facilitated by a single piece of music.
Once we landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, we boarded a plane bound for Cape Town. Once again, we christened our flight with a few pieces from our tour; once we were finished, I took my seat and prepared for takeoff. After a few minutes, I overheard Dan speaking earnestly with an elderly woman and her husband sitting next to him, but I couldn’t comprehend a single word he said. At first, I accounted my inability to understand their conversation to the droning of the plane’s engine until it finally it occurred to me that Dan was speaking to the couple in German. I could tell it meant the absolute world to her to be speaking with Dan; it was obvious by the way she rested her soft brown eyes on him, the way the wrinkles etched around the corners of her eyes turned up to mirror the corners of her mouth. At a certain point in the conversation, Dan leaned forward to Elizabeth and requested that she ask Dr. Hasseler if we could sing Schaffe in mir Gott, a piece composed by Brahms and the only German song that will be performed during the Wondrous Love tour. As Dr. Hasseler stood to conduct the choir from our seats, Dan leaned over to the woman beside him and quietly said, “This is for you.” Their initial bond was made through a common language, and he celebrated this with music. Dan chose to share a wondrous gift with a stranger – not merely the gift of song, but the gift of love.
I pray we continue to savor and cherish these life-changing, absolutely lekker experiences as we are granted more opportunities to sing with strangers. Indeed, more importantly, I pray we are reminded that the “strangers” we are singing with are truly our neighbors in a global community, our brothers and sisters in faith and in life. May we revel in the power of music, may we forever bestow and accept wondrous love. Amen.
- Nancy d.