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CONCERT ENCOUNTERS Where there is music-making every person is affected. Words can all too often imprison deep spiritual realities within their limitations. And it takes inspired music to release the truths locked within words. Words can also be decidedly¬† exclusive, whereas music is inclusive, all-embracing. And, more especially so, when our human words attempt to express Divine understandings which become formulated by mortals into doctrines and dogmas which the faithful of all religious persuasions feel obliged to subscribe to. Last evening’s concert in the chapel at the Diocesan College (Bishops) under the conductorship of Alexander Fokkens held soloists, choir, orchestra and audience in a tangible bond of unity as the words of the Rossini Stabat Mater and the Schubert Mass in G Major were brought to life in a way that spoke to the heart with truths contained within the words of both liturgical texts. And what a privilege to have performed these two works with such a fine band of orchestral players and soloists under Alexander’s superb direction. The joy of being a performer in such wonderful works is hugely enhanced by hearing how the concert has affected lives in the audience. And so I share three particular responses because of the impact the music had on these persons: At interval, after the Schubert Mass, I fell into conversation with an old friend (older than me) who owned to a longing to die, but was depressed and frightened of death, and heard how reassuring and comforting the Schubert Mass had been to him, especally the closing Agnus Dei – ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace’. And then finding himself contemplating an eternally loving Presence awaiting his arrival! After the Rossini Stabat Mater another friend, from Namibia, who had sung with the choir at a time when her daughter was in hospital in Cape Town and had died, told how she was able through the music to relate to the deep grief of Jesus’ Mother standing at the Cross witnessing her Son’s death, and yet had that deepdown knowing of not being alone, imbued with a deep peace beyond mere words. And then, when we were leaving the chapel, hearing how tears streamed down the cheeks of a fellow bass as the Stabat Mater came it its conclusion – the deep and profound joy of the Quando corpus movietur resonating with his spirit – ‘When my body dies grant that my soul is given the glory of Paradise. World without end. Amen.’ My own deep and abiding joy was not only in the singing and being part of the performance, but in savouring the spontaneous and heartwarming response of the audience, and the sense of joy that filled the chapel at the conclusion of the concert. For me it was the joy that Jesus promised would be with and in us regardless of the circumstances of the world in which we live, and regardless of the triumphs and tragedies – no matter how minor or major they may be – that go to make up our ordinary daily lives. I suppose its the joy that at the inevitable end an all-embracing Love awaits us, and that there are many mansions – room for all! In conclusion: all praise to Alexander whose musicianship continues to mature and seems boundless with an intense humility allowing the music a control and freedom that makes each succesive concert the more meaningful and spiritually rewarding. Not forgetting wife Margaret whose accompanying patience on the piano at rehearsals is limitless as she, together with Alexander, enables the choir to master the inticacies and dynamics of the works being prepared for performance. Harry Wiggett Fish Hoek 24 October 2016