[Photo Credit: This beautiful image comes from an MLive article, entitled, ‘Requiem for Orlando’ concert at UM honors Florida shooting victims]
As we know, we are living a deep and devastating week together. The last few days have felt quite heavy. Our nation and local communities are grappling with deep grief and pain after the violence and losses at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
In times of national sorrow, we feel pain, anger, numbness, and confusion. We also feel a sense of powerlessness as an ever-pressing question resounds within our minds and hearts:
What can we do?
In the days and months ahead, we will answer that question with action, empathy, solidarity, and change. We must work for all of these. We must.
When that question arrives and lingers,
When it presses —
What can we do? —
We can live an immediate answer
that is simple yet fiercely powerful:
We can see and be seen.
This happened last night in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a large scale. In fact, it was nothing short of miraculous.
In the wake of our aching, national pain –
in the loss of particular human lives,
in the loss of a sense of safety,
especially for our LGBTQ friends —
Ann Arbor showed up last night on behalf of Orlando.
In only 48 hours, four organizers and an entire town of people came together to sing, play, and witness an impromptu performance of Mozart’s Requiem in memory and honor of victims in Orlando. Leaders of the LGBTQ community, local clergy, and city and university leaders also spoke powerfully with messages that were convicting, vulnerable, authentic, and loving.
Last night, we saw our transgender, bisexual, gay, lesbian, and queer friends and neighbors with meaning and value.
Last night, we saw our community stand alive with hope and power for change.
It begins with seeing and being seen.
It continues with the same,
when we live generously and act forcefully on behalf of
people we have seen and known,
people with worth and value.
So I want to thank
Kevin Fitzgerald, and
Colin Knapp —
four powerhouse musicians, friends, and advocates who organized an entire Requiem in 48 hours. It was nothing short of a miracle.
I want to thank Alaina Brown, Ashley Dixon, George Shirley, and Stephen West who served as soloists in the Requiem.
I want to thank all singers and orchestra members who arrived to perform this music with depth, sensitivity, and power.
I want to thank First United Methodist Church for holding the rehearsal.
I want to thank the UMS Choral Union and First Presbyterian Church for providing musical scores which allowed heartfelt emotions to translate written music into great meaning.
I want to thank Jim Toy, Austin Stewart, Aaron Dworkin, Chris Taylor, and Mark Schlissel for their opening words which inspired us.
I want to thank a number of local clergy and religious leaders who shared closing words and sent us forward with more reflections.
And I want to thank the entire city of Ann Arbor and members of other communities who joined us last night. It was astounding to see so many people standing together in Hill Auditorium. This city heard the performance and will carry the meaning forward.
To close, this moment remains on my mind:
Last night, I had the privilege to sing next to Arianne Abela, one of last night’s organizers. Before the concert began, she and I both had tears in our eyes, marveling at the vast number of people in the audience, aware that this number had arrived with only two days notice. We realized that the audience was probably thinking the very same thing about us as they saw the number of musicians standing on stage. More than 300 musicians were facing them.
Together, we thought about that. . . musicians and audience members marveling simultaneously about the presence of one other. . . That’s when we said,
“We need to see each other.”