About “Be Still and Rejoice”
This song was inspired by an Advent video reflection written and recorded by Matthew Briggs and Victoria Szydlowski in December of 2020, perhaps the darkest and most isolated days of the pandemic. Several cathedral community members had been asked to create these videos to be released throughout Advent that year, each reflecting on a different passage of Scripture, but it was Victoria and Matt’s reflection, on the opening verse of the Magnificat, that lodged itself in my head. Their video begins: “Before Mary rejoices in the things God does, she first and foremost simply rejoices in God...”
Matt died about nine months later, in August of 2021. After his death was announced to the community, I shared the video with the community once again, and Matt and Victoria’s words continued rolling around in my head. At some point, I realized I needed to set them to music. When I write music, I almost always begin with a clear concept of what the end will look like, but that was not the cast this time. At various points in the process I thought I was setting a long passage of the text as choral anthem, or a solo with organ, or a duet. Gradually, what I had written was pared down and focused, and finally I discovered that what I had been working on all along was, in fact, a meditation in the style of Taizé, using only final sentence spoken by Matt in the video. At that point, the words of Scripture that inspired the reflection in the first place seemed to click into place as solo verses above the refrain.
I’m grateful to the Taizé organizers at Saint Mark’s for including it in this service, where it is being sung publicly for the first time. I offer it to the greater glory of God and in memory of this remarkable person. He was taken from us too soon, but his presence in this world can still be felt, like the ripples in a pond when the pebble can no longer be seen, creating even now new wisdom, beauty, and joy.
– Gregory Bloch
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