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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In the face of grief, make music

Since I'm not sure this will make the cutting floor of the WomenSing website, I thought I would go ahead and post it for those of you who follow me or read my blog from time to time.  It was all I could come up with as a response to the earthshaking events of the last week.

Blog Post #3 – a retrospective on Sing an Endless “Ave”

It is with a heavier heart than I had last Wednesday evening that I am finally addressing the computer and bringing some reflections to what it was like for me to sing in my first concert with WomenSing.   I was lifted high by the beautiful churches in which we sang and the gracious hospitality of the hosts/hostesses and the audiences who came to hear us sing.  I was humbled by the preparation of sitting in a room trying to take it all in.  I was shocked at the speed with which the program progressed.  I was in awe the talent of the percussionists, our vocal soloists and ensembles and our outstanding artistic staff.  And I was sad that I was not as prepared for it all as I wanted to be, while heartened that next time I will know more, be more relaxed and continue to improve (art making is not an instantaneous gratification event!)

However,  since that evening and those initial reflections, the country has been reminded once again of the terrible toll violence can take on a community, and this time the violence found itself on the doorstep of a school with teachers and very young children.  I will not write any opinions or give any quick or vapid solutions to this tragedy, but I will admit that for a time, it made the exhilaration and thrill of making music fade somewhat into the background.  The concert became a sub-paragraph to the larger essay of life. 
However, the more I have thought about it, the more I believe that there should be an exclamation point next to music making and the role it can have in making our world a better place, and making us better people.  I know that some of you may be wondering what kind of Pollyanna life I lead or how I could be so na├»ve as to think that might even be possible.  But let me explain myself.

Our program this winter was an eclectic mix of movements from various Latin American and Canadian masses, some traditional carols and some less traveled songs by the likes of Derek Holman and Benjamin Britten.  So, for starters, regardless of one’s faith background, who could help but be moved by a Kyrie (Lord, have mercy) or miserere nobis (have mercy on us) or Dona Nobis Pacem (grant us peace)?  I guess what I’m really trying to say is that the music is still singing through me and in me, even though the concerts concluded nearly a week ago.  And isn’t that what great art should do?  These are ancient words and texts and carols and songs, and they spoke volumes in those two venues last week, and even more loudly to me in the news of a tragedy in Newtown, CT.

Also, this wonderful choral organization of WomenSing does more than put on performances, but it gives back to communities and individuals through programs like Youth Inspiring Youth (http://www.womensing.org/).  Additionally, earlier in the fall, several members of WomenSing took lunch to a group in San Francisco called Singers of the Street (http://www.singersofthestreet.org/), a choir of people whose lives are impacted by homelessness.   And what else could we do that would support communities locally and even worldwide to the gift of making music that challenges the mind, enlarges the heart and opens hands to a more generous and kind way of living?  In the words of Leonard Bernstein, "This will be our reply to violence: To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

(Addendum:  for one more story about music as activisim, go to
 http://thisweekinpalestine.co/details.php?id=1189&ed=97&edid=97 to read about the Palestine Bach Festival.)

1 comment:

  1. Gail, How true! Whenever Carol and I sing or listen, it is as if we are lifted out of our doldrums, funkiness and given peace. It is more special to us when we sing or listen to sacred music, but even secular music (most, anyway) has a calming influence on our lives and redirects us. Keep Singing! Werner