A Psalm for a New Year was written in the summer of 2018. The words were by my late brother, Lars, who had just died in June, 2018 from brain cancer. This was the last piece of writing he did before he became too ill to work. The performance is from a commemorative event held to honor Lars’s writing on May 26, 2019. The performance is by Les Voix de Mai (a hand-picked chamber choir), conducted by Jessica Pierpont, with Elizabeth Reid, viola. Here is the text:
A Psalm For a New Year
Thus saith the Lord, and all of us are prophets who speak to the Lord,
In the noise of our selfish shouting and in the deepest secrets of our shy hearts.
The Lord speaks through us and to us and takes the hand of our heart leading us forth to the light of his countenance.
Every day, we go to far shores and the tallest mountains, yet we stand rooted, like the trees of the field and bushes of the vineyard and the stones of the slope.
Master of Life, I have seen the glow in the hills, and I run from it.
Master of Life, I have seen the stars in the sky, and I cower to wait for dawn.
Master of Life, I look at my means, and I stretch my hand out to my ambitions, and I fear I cannot bridge the gap between the two.
Master of Life, may I sing a new song to you every day, as you will not restrain yourself, I, too, will cry out, my travail a transient moan, giving birth to the new.
We ARE islands, and we ARE wilderness, and we need God to be mighty and to raise us up.
Do not, I beg of you, waste the mountains and the herbs; do not remove the water from the islands, nor the eddies that make your pools streams, your streams rivers, your rivers the roaring oceans.
In return, I know I must listen, my senses must be righteous, and while I fear your fury, my faith spreads the bare bread of my courage.
And when I walk, I will fear none of my steps.
And when I walk, I will fear no destinations.
And when I walk, I will fear not the darkness, nor the unknown glow, nor the far towers, nor the watchmen on them, for You will be with me.
And You will unstop my ears so I will hear You and You will take the scales from my eyes so I will see You–
And You will make me plain that I may find the best in me; You will make the croooked within me straight, and You will make smooth my rough places.
–Lars Nielsen, 2017
And here is a link to the performance: