Sicut Cervus

Some days just come with their own special magic – all that’s required is to be in the moment. Having already had a great musical exchange in Split, we landed in Zadar in enough time to settle into the hotel and then head to rehearsal in the cathedral.

We found that we were to be part of a program that included 30 minutes of organ music, and that local dignitaries would be attending the performance. We met the cathedral’s choir director, who was invited to direct the chorus in the program opener – the Croatian national anthem. He stepped to the podium: his gestures and his face gave us all the cues we needed to bring us up a few notches.

DSC00912Our holding area/changing room was a 4th century chapel that had been converted to the sacristy. There were bits of old paintings on the surface of the walls, and the antique masonry showed through in some places. The floor was covered with two large pieces of carpet, but the floor felt really uneven underneath.

We had another great concert, despite the local street noise that came filtering through the doors and windows. The audience was appreciative, and the choir director was happy and impressed.

After we had changed back to our street clothes and were ready to leave, the choir director and priest had something to show us. They peeled back the pieces of carpet to reveal a beautiful mosaic, illustrating Psalm 42.1: Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus. English translation: As the deer longs for the running water, my soul longs for you, O God.

Two deer, rendered in tiny square tiles many centuries ago, gracefully drank from a pool. We dropped our bags, and pulled out our music. Encircling the revealed artwork in the floor, we sang Palestrina’s setting of Sicut Cervus. Written in the Renaissance, this beautiful piece, as graceful as the mosaic deer bending to drink, filled the ancient space.

Moments like this cannot be booked, bought or reserved. They come when you connect with others to share the beauty of music, and an appreciation of art and time and history and culture. When they all meld together, it’s simply magic.

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