Ever since his passing, I have been waiting for an opportunity to honour the life and work of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This seemed like the best time to do so, with the opportunity of adding extra music in a Cathedral Summer Festival liturgy.
In these short notes it would be impossible to do justice in describing Desmond's enormous contribution not only to the world-wide religious communities, but to the global village - what he would describe as "family."
Small in stature, but larger than life, he had amazing generosity of spirit, endless energy, full of compassion for his fellow South African communities. His sharing, one-on-one of stories of individual painful journeys showed his total commitment to the reconciliation process. Yet his boundless joy always shined through; and of course never shy about sharing his great sense of humour.
The music this morning was chosen, not because these might have been any of his favourites, but reflect in some fashion his joy, his compassion, his love of nature and commitment to peace and justice world-wide, and his belief that we are all family.
The Introit is a Gregorian Kyrie from Missa de Angelis that threads its way throughout Paul Halley's Freedom Trilogy.
The opening hymn text is a new discovery for me, written by a 19th century Quaker writer/poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Its poetic sense and powerful message completely reminds me of Desmond.
The Canticle The Rain is Over and Gone with the text adaptation of Song of Songs for me, totally exemplifies Desmond's life - full of JOY!
The Sequence Chant is from one of many Iona music collections I have. I was looking for a text written by Desmond. John Bell, who composed the music says of Goodness is stronger than evil - Desmond Tutu was no stranger to Scotland. In 1988, his wife Leah opened the MacLeod Centre on Iona, and in 1995 he was principal speaker at a conference organized by the Scottish Episcopal Church. One of the recurrent sounds heard throughout the conference was this chant.
The Offertory anthem Freedom Trilogy - combining three diverse styles of music into a whole - personifies a beautiful vision of an inclusive society.
During communion, we sing Ukuthula. It has been sung in the indigenous communities in South Africa for many decades. This version is by the Cape Town Youth Choir.
The Closing hymn Amazing Grace, brings us more 'in communion" with the conclusion of the Freedom Trilogy as the Postlude.
To conclude - I highly recommend that everyone should watch a YouTube of the SFU's ceremony, conferring three honorary Doctoral degrees - held at this Cathedral April 20, 2004. This was for The Dalai Lama, Shirin Ebadi and Desmond Tutu. I clearly remember that day when we had members of the Cathedral Choir and Vancouver Children's Choir in the gallery (no organ at that point). We sang excerpts of the Freedom Trilogy. Our singing is not on this YouTube, but Desmond is complimentary about the music and thanks the choir, saying "I nearly got up to dance."
Please watch the whole ceremony, it's less than an hour in length. In particular I loved seeing Desmond again - watching his ability to hold a crowd in his "spell" - with both serious matters, and of course his great sense of humour!