Enjoying a Oakland Municipal Band concert in Lakeside Park on a warm August afternoon.
You can see a little bit of Lake Merritt to the left of the band stand in the photo below. And very faintly, if you look for it, you can see the “Green Monster” climbing structure, also to the left of the bandstand by the lake,
People and Musicians
Kids climbing on the repaired and newly rededicated 50 year old “Green Monster” climbing structure.
Almost 7 months to the day since my husband died, I am finding that a sense of peace often settles over me. I’m not saying that there is not still grief, or that I don’t still miss him. There is, and I still do. But I am finding that as time goes by, I am remembering more and more often our many decades together when he was not sick, and remembering less the awfulness of the illnesses that preceded his dying.
Last night I went with two friends to a small concert venue to hear an evening of music written by Schubert. As an Austrian composer of the late 18th and early 19th century, he was unusual in that he not only composed music for small and large orchestra, but also wrote transcendently beautiful art songs for voice. Saturday was an evening of both.
I am fortunate. Much of music speaks directly to my soul. It bypasses my analytical brain and goes straight to my heart and fills me with a sense of peace and beauty. Sometimes it feels as if the music inhabits me and I sense little boundary between me and it.
Such was last night, and I realized, not for the first time, that the intense grief of my husband’s death has continued to lessen, giving me space to exist in the world. Such is the grace of time, I think, and love. As I sat there fully present in the music, I realized that this is exactly what he would want for me. He would not want me to stop living after his death, but rather fully embrace life for the both of us.
I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of James Horner, a brilliant and prolific film composer. He is perhaps best know for his orchestral score for the film Titanic, but he composed the score for 75 films. I cannot do justice to the depth of his talent, but the best tribute to him that I have read, is written by Jay, over here.
Requiescat In Pace, James Horner. You will be sorely missed.
This quote comes from an wonderful post by fellow blogger Su Leslie at Zimmerbitch, which is entitled “Pathways to Light.” She ends the post by posting a YouTube link (above), which is an excellent performance of John Rutter’s Requiem Aeternam. Leading in to this video, she writes,
“The religious music of John Rutter embodies for me much that is truly good in humanity; a pathway to joy.” ~Su Leslie
That sentence echoes deep within me, and is a perfect description of how I feel about John Rutter’s music. I have been privileged to perform many of John Rutter’s compositions, but the highlight for me came 6 or 7 years ago when one rehearsal we all walked in and found the score of his Gloria in our boxes. It’s a 20 minute piece, and at the time was by far the hardest piece we had ever performed. I seem to recall that we spent about 2 months learning it, and our musicianship grew tremendously in the process. The second movement, opening with only the men’s voices, is so beautiful that it almost broke my heart, even in that haltingly imperfect first reading. It is the kind of music that haunts me with it’s beauty, and I literally began to hear it in my dreams once we had been rehearsing it for awhile. It was then the kind of piece that is given to you occasionally in your performance life, that stretches your skill almost to the breaking point. The kind of piece that reaches inside and changes you. So that from that point forward, there becomes the way you sang before that piece, and the way you sang after. John Rutter’s Gloria became such a piece for me.
Gloria, by John Rutter:
(You have to click on the tiles on the screen after the first movement finishes (I Allegro) in order to listen to parts II and II. Be careful, as the tiles are not arranged in order. Listen especially to the second movement: II Andante. That is the movement that is the most ethereally beautiful.)
On Saturday I joined a group of 24 singers to sing for the memorial service of an elderly friend. I didn’t expect to cry as much as I did – I hadn’t put any kleenex in the pocket of my vestments, and had to ask for some from a fellow singer. I hadn’t expected to cry that much because the service was indeed a celebration of a life that had been joyfully and fully lived.
My friend had led a life filled with service to others, and he found some of his greatest pleasure in listening thoughtfully and unhurriedly to people as they worked through both their tangles and their celebrations. He was so present when you talked to him, and his children attested to the fact that he was that way at home as well, both during their childhood and after they became adults. He deeply believed that God was revealed in each of us, and he thought it a privilege to sit in the presence of someone as they talked to him. He was fond of quoting St. Irenaeus using inclusive language; “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
Fully alive. It is what the French mean by the phrase Joie de vivre, although a lot of the meaning is lost in the translation into English. It doesn’t just mean the joy of life. A closer translation would be “the joy of being fully alive.” Being embodied, grounded, delighting in each moment as it comes, whenever that is possible. And when it’s not, whether due to health conditions, pain, trauma or grief, to do our best to still find some beauty or kindness in the world, despite all. Or even more so, perhaps, in the midst of all.
My friend didn’t have a perfect life. None of us do. But he had a way of living fully and delighting in other people’s joy. I met him in his elder years. I wish I had been able to know him when he was younger as well.
I think I cried as much as I did during the service because even though he was at peace and was ready to “cross over the river,” as he phrased it, a beautiful soul has departed this life, and I shall miss him.
This year for the first time, our Spring Concert is going to be Live Streamed, AND IT IS GOING TO BE FANTASTIC!!!! It will be streamed on June 7, 2015 @ 5:00 PM (17:00) Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). I know this will be in the middle of the night for some of you, but this concert will not be held in a buffer, so if you want to hear some fantastic music, tune in. And let me know how you like it.