Saturday, August 19, 2017

"I Fall" - Tony Silvestri - Lyrics, Eric Whitacre - Scoring

It was supposed to just be a night at a concert. 

But we left feeling as if we had witnessed someone’s heart being broken, and then, very slowly, healed.  It was excruciating and yet hauntingly beautiful.  And it all happened in choral song at Disney Hall. 

A number of years ago there was a lovely young lady who was part of our church college department whose name was Julie.  Julie met a young man named Tony Silvestri, and soon became Julie Silvestri.  Two young lives brought together in a wedding in the church sanctuary.  Soon, along came two beautiful children, Thomas and Emma.  It was a lovely life.

And then, to Julie came cancer.  After a rugged and difficult struggle, it took her life.  Tony and the children were on their own, left with their faith and friends to sustain them.  Our family watched this all happen, and if I am honest, this loss is on the top of my list of questions in life.  Why God?  Why did this death happen, to such good, and warm, and loving people?

Back to the night at the concert.  Several weeks ago we were at Disney Hall to enjoy the Los Angeles Master Chorale and choral composer Eric Whitacre.  There was to be a new piece performed that night, entitled “I Fall”.  What we did not expect was when Mr. Whitacre took the stage with the Chorale that evening – our friend Tony Silvestri would walk on with him.  We were floored, here was our friend, who has suffered such loss, standing on the stage at Disney Hall. 

Tony was there that night as over the past decade he has become a recognized choral composer.  And over that same time period he has formed a deepening friendship with Mr. Whitacre, as they have worked on various choral pieces together.  Tony took center stage, was handed a microphone, and told the audience of his journey of love and loss with Julie.  He said, “Now, after 10 years, I am finally able to write lyrics about this loss.  These lyrics are about the night Julie passed away, in the Emergency Room.  This work has been the deepest writing I have ever done.”

And then, “I Fall” was performed.  I cannot recall a time in all my years where we have quietly wept through an entire choral piece.  The music and words were profoundly piercing and yet strangely and wonderfully redeeming, altogether in a way I cannot begin to articulate. 

The lyrics, Tony later shared with me:

Listening to your labored breath,
Your struggle ends as mine begins.
You rise, I fall. 

Fading, yet already gone;
What calls you I cannot provide.
You rise, I fall. 

Broken, with a heavy hand
I reach to you, and close your eyes. 
You rise, I fall. 

Psalm 77 says to us, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.  My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

Julie rose, indeed.  And Tony fell.  

And yet, with time something beautiful, and mysterious, and redeeming has emerged, in song.  And in Tony’s life.  Redemption is slowly having its way.  With us all.  May we be open enough, with time, to recognize it happening.
Below, a short excerpt of Eric Whitacre and Tony Silvestri’s “I Fall”.  This piece is proposed as a part of series, to be recorded in London in the coming months.  Stay tuned.

Solo Deo Gloria

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