FALLING SCALES

“Joy to the World” descends the scale—one note at a time.
This tune—so familiar –doesn’t ring my bells,
Until one December afternoon
When I go caroling at the Memory Care Unit
And watch as every worn face mouths the words
And tears course down each cheek.

The gospel choir overflows with gratitude.
Their words describe hands lifting in praise
As the notes move down and down and down—
Until the music soars again in overlapping Amens.

Listen, now, to Webber’s “Requiem”
As that ethereal soprano voice
Hovers near the apex of the Gothic arches
And wafts downward as we wait below,
Breathless.

What is the magic here?
What ancient incantation is evoked?
What genetic memory
Or ecstatic moment from a former life
Is linked to the soundtrack of these descending tones?

While “Joy to the World” bounces down the scale
And “Total Praise” strides confidently along,
“Pié Jesu” floats, drifting as gently
As a falling leaf on an autumn afternoon,
Lofted briefly on an updraft,
Only to settle on the ground
In perfect peace.

“Joy to the World”

“Total Praise”

Andrew Lloyd-Webber “Requiem”

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