“When Dearest Friends Depart”

“When Dearest Friends Depart”

These lyrics from “Be Still My Soul” touch my heart, and are a powerful reminder to me that friends make life worthwhile. We support our friends through trouble and triumph, sadness, and even in death. “..when all is darkened through a veil of tears” we know our friendship has not ended, it has only changed locations.

I lost a very close friend 2 short years ago, and his impact in my life continues on throughBrett Wolf my clinical performance art mission. Magic Nurse was a concept and a passion I was trying to incorporate into an effective mission to relieve suffering through art. My friend Brett Wolf was a great magician with a servant’s heart, who encouraged me to develop this concept organically, and let it grow into whatever it would become.

Any purposeful effort of good intention will find its way into the light of the world. Brett was a kind and brilliant man, and I am a better person for knowing him. As long as I have breath in this life, I will try to honor the memory of my dearest friends, and minister to a distressed world through my art, on their behalf as well as mine.  I’ll carry the torch a little way further, with hopes some of my friends will pick it up again and keep it going when my time is done too. “Be Still My Soul” reminds us that no matter what happens, love keeps moving forward. 

I truly believe the arrangement for “Be Still My Soul” was delivered by God to Jim Clancy to be penned as a prayer for his chorus. Standing on the risers, tucked inside a massive arc of 100+ guys, we each discovered immediately that this song cut deep into that walled off place inside, where men stow their sadness and bury their fears.

The Vocal Majority is the greatest men’s barbershop chorus in the world. The bonds of friendship among the men in this group is very strong.  At the direction of Jim and Greg Clancy, we become one massive instrument of pure vocal music excellence.  We work in the art of harmony. When we are together, we are doing God’s work to enrich the lives of others through our music.  

There are a few profoundly moving songs that affect us with such intensity that it causes tears to flow as we sing. Not just occasionally, but nearly every time we perform them. “Be Still My Soul” is one of those songs where tears come quickly for me.

I felt empathy in those moments when Clancy connected with his men, so deeply moved, as he directed this arrangement. Jim’s expression changes for that brief second of acknowledgement. Then he continues his gaze across the risers to find another tearful face, then another, and another. I know I am not alone. The men to my left and right, are also remembering loved ones beyond the veil of tears too. When Jim’s eyes light upon me for a moment, he knows my grief is there, just behind the joy of singing this incredible song. With kind reassurance, he directs us all gently on; pouring out our souls for those in the audience who need this message also.  That is, after all, why we do this.

During the recording sessions for the album “Then Sings My Soul”, the latest Vocal Majority CD, every guy knew inherently that we were creating something very special. A spiritual collection of songs that touched on every aspect of the wonderful gifts and promises our loving God offers us. We knew, as we offered our voices to this project, that a small piece of ourselves would stay here on earth and minister to people, long after we passed on. I told my wife the very night we recorded, “Be still my soul” that it must be played at my funeral. My kids needed to hear that incredible mix of voices, and know their father was in there doing what he loved. My heart  continues on for them in the music we made, when I go to be forever with the Lord.

The chorus members know too well that life is fragile. In time, we know we will come together for another solemn purpose, with great sadness, to offer up prayerful tributes for other fallen brothers who will leave their places on the risers too soon.  As we have done so many times before, we honor our friends and sing them into Heaven. Our band of brothers feel a deep connection through the music we create with each other, that when one voice is missing, it affects all of us. We never take for granted the moments we have together as a chorus. Many have gone before us, and many more will come after.

I see the faces of my dearest friends who left this life too early, when we perform this song. I lift their memory as a blessing in tearful prayer each time. Then quietly wipe my eyes afterward, trying not to draw attention, composing myself for the next song.  I am grateful when stage lights are brought down. Drying the tears, I hear a quiet chorus of sniffles in the darkness. I am not alone.

Dearest friends, I pray you find the comfort in these lyrics we men of the Vocal Majority intended you to have. “Be Still My Soul” is our gift to you, especially if you are feeling grief or pain. You will hear love in our voices. Love that endures forever.

When we recorded Be Still My Soul, we knew God was with us that night. The silence between the notes had as much majesty as the harmonic chords had, ringing with overtones.  Angels rested above us and made sure this one was a keeper!

Visit: www.vocalmajority.com to learn more about this amazing organization.

We are on YouTube also!

Of all the artistic projects I am involved in, performing with the Vocal Majority has opened up every creative gift God has offered me. There was a divine hand that guided my way through magic, music, clowning, and performing art to bring me to this chorus. As a Registered Nurse, I combined all my creative arts to become a “Magic Nurse” to find creative ways to heal others.  This is not just entertainment, it is spiritual healing and compassionate presence. My batteries are recharged every Thursday night at chorus rehearsals. The magic of this work allows me to take that love and friendship to the bedside of my patients.  It motivates me to help others find their own magic too.

vm coverIf you are in Dallas on any Thursday night, I invite you to visit! Guests are always welcome to join us on the risers, our rehearsals are open. Sign in as my guest and lets sing together! Life is too short to miss opportunities to use your gifts.

10 thoughts on ““When Dearest Friends Depart”

  1. Your writing is excellent! Thank you for sharing your heart! I am Brett’s Aunt Debbie and I am so thankful for your precious friendship with Brett. You’ve blessed my sister Karen so much and I know God meant for you and Brett to be friends. Thank you for being so faithful to remember Brett. We all miss him but believe we will see him again someday soon! God bless you.

    • Thank you Debbie for those words. I was just a clown on a train, performing for Make-A-Wish kids when I met Brett. He was doing his magic there too. Serving others with our art is what made us fast friends. He was a great man.

  2. Rob, First let me say it was an honor to stand next to you last night and perform for the wonderful people of Waco,TX. I could hear the passion in your voice as we sang the stellar Vocal Majority selection of songs…each one a gem and a story unto itself.
    Second, I was truly moved by your blog article about your connection to your departed pal and how the VM renews your bond with him each time we sing a powerful song like “Be Still My Soul”. Keep up your creative writing process and sharing the experiences of your “Magic Nurse” persona. We can all learn a lot from you.
    Bob Volpe

    • Thank you Bob. Standing next to you in our neighborhood of voices has been an amazing blessing. It is hard to find the right words that describe the power of this music. It just has to be experienced to understand.

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