Going Low for Lent

The thing about Lent is the low notes.


OK, it’s probably not THE thing, especially since I don’t mean low notes in a spiritual context - the depths of one’s soul or the challenges to a person’s faith.



I mean actual low notes. E flat. D. C. We have a good ration of them coming up in our choir music and, honestly, I kinda live for them. I don’t know exactly why. But singing a low note seems like a grounding soul connection, even better than hearing a low note sung - which is a pretty great thing. Elvira, Ball of Confusion, Daddy Sang Bass - each features a bass guy on a low C, each has the power to pause me from any activity in order to listen unimpeded.


Not that we’re singing any of those specific works in choir. But Moses Hogan’s arrangement of The Blind Man Stood on the Road and Cried calls for serial E flats; Arvo Pärt’s setting for Tribute to Caesar features a holy grail-ish low C; and the arrangement of the 23rd Psalm Ann Hamric listed in her “funeral folder” has each verse ending on a low D. (Saying goodbye to Ann is technically not a Lenten event, but seems to fit right in.)


Why so low in Lent? My observation is the music tends to be quieter and more reflective. This is fertile ground for low notes. You try singing an audible low D in the Hallelujah Chorus - you might as well have stayed home and enjoyed more coffee. But the aforementioned anthems offer the space and dynamics for that same pitch (or its nearby cousins) to be heard, maybe even to resonate. It’s the season when Doug often tells the rest of the choir: Listen for the basses.


So there: I said something nice about Lent. It’s never not a struggle for me. It comes too early, in a generally bleak time of year. I associate it with admitting how bad I am - something I already have a pretty good handle on and like to manage on my own terms. Toward the end we have that half of a service for Palm Sunday - a pretty great party - and then crash into the crucifixion. Not exactly good times.


I’m grateful for Carla and other friends in the Spirit who help me see the richness in brokenness, who are willing to walk into the Lenten season and share the way the winter light angles in; to offer comfort in the cold.


And I’m grateful for the low notes - a way to be quietly, resonantly present in Lent.


Alfred Walker has sung in our choir for 27 years which, amazingly, only gets you back to 1993. He also manages this blog and would love to post reflections from you most anytime and especially during Lent. Let him know.