…. for the Living

It was an uplifting evening of beautiful music and remembrance. The concert choir of Henderson High School, West Chester, PA, consisting of eighty-nine talented teenagers had paired with a community vocal group, the renowned Brandywine Singers. Their soaring melodies were supported by a fine chamber ensemble, a blend of high school string players and Chesco Pops musicians. Jonathan Kreamer, director, had selected opioid addiction as a focus for the performance, with proceeds benefiting several addiction treatment centers.
Prayers and poems of various religious traditions alternated with inspiring music which floated up to the high rafters of the lovely Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA. Special guests spoke of the opioid addiction crisis including Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs of PA, Jennifer Smith. Ms. Smith referred to opioid addiction as a disease that changes the brain. Recovery is possible, but relapse is common. This is a community issue and we all play a role in the solution. She urged families who are dealing with opioid use concerns to acquire a supply of NARCAN (available at local pharmacies without a presciption). The PA hot line for all to remember is 1-800-622-HELP.
The message was heart-breaking, but it clearly raised awareness among the more than five hundred people in the audience — spell-bound during the presentation. Especially important, in my view, was the fact that many young people were present.
A reverent reading of seventeen names followed, friends and loved ones who were lost to the epidemic in 2017. This was a year in which 47,600 Americans died of opioid overdoses. Silence followed and then …….. the ethereal sound of treble strings gently entered the space as the feature composition of the evening began. This work was Dan Forrests’s Requiem for the Living.
It was a masterpiece of beauty; the rich sounds of the choir and orchestra, the energy and emotional involvement of the conductor, the magic cast over the audience ……. perfectly fitting for the solemnity of the occasion. Five movements sung in Latin transported us from the Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, to the Lux Aeterna, place of eternal light.
The joyous proclamation of “Hosanna” rang out repeatedly during the Sanctus. My neighbor in the pew, with whom I had shared a crowded space in the second row, turned with a smile and said, “Isn’t this perfect for the eve of Palm Sunday?” Wiping my eyes, I nodded and smiled. We had shared an amazing event, not to be forgotten.
Boisterous applause and a standing ovation were instant at the close of the performance. Within a few seconds the strings had their bows in place again, and we were treated to an encore of the “Hosanna” portion. Beautiful planning ……. while the urgency of the opioid threat had been imprinted on our minds and hearts, Maestro Kreamer sent us back into the world with joyful sounds of optimism.

Music, Life, Harmony

Music has always been a special ingredient in my life. It all began formally in the 4th grade with violin lessons under the patient tutelage of the school string teacher. Our childhood home was filled with dramatic arias of Saturday afternoon operas, broadcast from the Met. Every day after school my mother taught piano lessons in the living room, and I soon came to know each tune in the Ada Richter instruction books by memory. After students left we enjoyed classical music magically produced by heavy plastic discs using the technology of the day, a record player.  I recall leaping from a hassock in the living room and dancing to my heart’s delight, as the rich melodies of Handel’s Water Music filled the air. The image of an orchestra floating down the Thames River while entertaining the King of England fascinated me.

Today I refrain from leaping and have not yet played on a river barge, but I happily rehearse and perform with two orchestras and am grateful. My seat is at the back of the 1st violin section. Nestled between the grand piano and the magnificent harp, I love my seat and feel totally absorbed into the fabric of the ensemble. The ethereal sounds of the harp ring out beautifully on one side while the percussive tinkling of piano keys project on the other. It is truly amazing to be in the midst of this. My much smaller instrument provides gentle tones, fitting in but not overwhelming the others. Together we enjoy the experience of creating beautiful music.

Creating something beautiful together….…what would that look like in the wider world, I wonder? Perhaps respectful dialog marked by openness to others who think differently; perhaps a lovely blend of uniquely distinct voices, each graciously adding its special strength;  perhaps diverse sizes, shapes, colors, and textures, each with a desire to work and live peacefully side-by-side.

That would be real harmony. Indeed, it would just about be Heaven on Earth!