July 29, 2007
Home Is Where They Have To Take You In When No One Else Will
I watched the last episode of Six Feet Under this morning. At their core, the Fishers are the most traditional of families, while at a glance, they may look dysfunctional and crazy. Ruth embodies the unconditional love that is at the center of their family. Although each member moves in and out and has all manner of planned and unplanned misadventures, Ruth remains in the eye of the hurricane. She keeps her door unlocked, and no one in her family is turned away, even if she knows they will break her heart again. Socialized to relate only to the most traditional model of what family should be, she moved to embracing the most unconventional and diverse in all its beauty and awkwardness.
When Claire prepared to leave for New York, Ruth said, "I pray you will be filled with hope as long as you possibly can." That sums it up. Yes - life is difficult and to think of it as all happiness and satisfaction is grossly naive. At the same time, we must continue hoping each and every day. It's what keeps us being able to put one foot in front of another.
July 28, 2007
Tonight was our performance of the FaurĂ© Requiem. It's such an amazing piece -- consider the breadth of emotions it expresses ... from fear and trembling at the thought of everlasting desolation, to the peace of being welcomed into heaven by the chorus of angels. Considering that Matthew pulled together a chorus of strangers of varying backgrounds and rehearsed us for only 3 weeks, I thought the performance was quite good. The soloists were U of M music faculty and added depth and mature voices to the piece. I found that I barely needed to look at the score; I have it basically memorized. (Which is good, because we were standing on risers and my music was jammed up against the head of the fellow in front of me.) Despite how many times I've sung it before (maybe a half dozen?), I could sing it again and again. It made me wonder what choral adventures await this coming year and the year after.
July 25, 2007
Nate died today.
Well, not exactly.
You see, I am watching all of Six Feet Under as I work out on my elliptical machine, and today I saw episode 61, in which Nate was buried. Very very sad.
I was touched by the poem that Nate's Aunt Sarah (Ruth's sister) read at the graveside. I searched for it on the HBO website, and this is what I found.
from The Mystic Odes of Rumi via the 5th Season of Six Feet Under
Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For he who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding him, say neither bad nor good,
For he is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that he may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.
...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.
July 22, 2007
Free Concert - FaurĂ© Requiem
You are warmly invited to attend the concert of the University of Minnesota Summer Chorus
Saturday, July 28
Ted Mann Concert Hall, U of MN West Bank
Directed by Matthew Mehaffey, Associate Director of Choral Activities, U of MN
FaurĂ©, Tantum Ergo
Britten, Jubilate Deo
Vaughan Williams, Down Among the Dead Men
You may know from prior blog posts that the FaurĂ© Requiem is one of my all time favorites ... partly because it has wonderful tenor parts throughout, and partly because it is such comforting music. There are about 60 of us in the chorus - an interesting blend of people from the community and U of M music students. It's been fun to put it together.
For an informative website about the Requiem, visit http://members.macconnect.com/users/j/jimbob/classical/Faure_Requiem.html
July 15, 2007
In Memoriam, Howard Don Small
UPDATE: Constance Schey has established a memorial page for sharing reminiscences about Don Small. Go to http://www.res-miranda.com/HDS1.html
I lost one of my most important music mentors, and the world lost an incredible church musician on July 13, 2007. Howard Don Small served as Canon Musician at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark, Minneapolis, from 1971 - 1998. Although many things will be said about his extensive professional accomplishments, I wanted this blog entry to be a more personal remembrance.
Although I only sang under Donâ€™s direction for about five years (first in the Cathedral Choral Society and then in the Cathedral Choir), working with him had a profound effect on me as a musician. Let me mention a few ways.
First, his focus was always on the inextricable connection between music and worship. Choirs were not in church to perform. They were there so be an integral part of worship. That always took precedence. (Choir directors do not universally hold this view!) Singing with him exposed me to the worldâ€™s greatest choral literature - such a gift.
Second, he expected and received excellence from everyone - the very best we could possibly give, every time. In turn, he gave the same himself. His dedication and passion for sacred music inspired all of us to continue learning, striving, and improving. Singing under his direction gave me the encouragement to keep trying and stretching.
Third, he valued and supported community. The annual overnight choir retreats were truly bonding experiences for all, and he and Emma frequently opened their home for parties and celebrations. Through the choir, I made some very good friends and shared times of joy as well as sadness. A fellow choir member referred me to Groves Academy for our son; it was truly a godsend. I came to realize how much Don, Emma, and St. Marks were at the center of a hub of vibrant choral activity in the Twin Cities. Everyone who was anybody knew them and their work; many had studied or sung with Emma or Don.
One of my most cherished memories is participating in the recording of the CD, â€śBlessings Great and Smallâ€? during June 1997.
Steve Barnett was the producer, and Preston Smith was the recording engineer. The whole experience was professional at the very highest levels. I had a number of out-of-body experiences during the marathon sessions, just as I am now, savoring the memories while listening to the CD.
Don had experienced a number of health challenges over the past decade, but memories of him are strong and very much alive. Thank you, Don. Rest in peace.
In January 1998, at Donâ€™s retirement party, I had the privilege of â€śrepresentingâ€? those who joined the choir in the 1990s as we extended tributes during the evening. I found the notes from what I said, and they seem like a very appropriate way to close this entry. Here goes:
Sometimes things that we do as part of our everyday activities touch othersâ€™ lives in ways that we never planned, expected, or heard about. You have touched my life in several ways, and it is out of gratitude that I recount a few stories.
I moved to Minnesota in January, 1990, and Susan and our son Mark followed that summer. We first lived in an apartment near Summit and Dale in St. Paul, and we attended the church of St. John the Evangelist. By autumn, we moved to our current home in Falcon Heights; commuting to St. Johnâ€™s was difficult and not sufficiently rewarding to continue.
I donâ€™t remember how we heard about the Lessons and Carols service at St. Markâ€™s - perhaps from the newspaper or from a friend - but it was either that Advent or the year following that we attended for the first time. We were both quite moved. About halfway through the service, I remember that Susan and I looked at each other, and without saying a word, said, â€śThis is the place weâ€™ve been seeking.â€? Thus, your music ministry had a direct connection to our joining the parish of St. Markâ€™s.
I had sung in a number of choirs through the years and fantasized about how wonderful it would be to sing with the Cathedral Choir. I talked to a number of people about it, including Lee Brant, whom I met at a newcomerâ€™s dinner. All were enthusiastic about my interest, but all spoke of the â€śCâ€? word - commitment. At that time, my job was totally consuming, and I couldnâ€™t foresee making the time commitment necessary. Not long after, however, I read the announcement in the bulletin about the Choral Society. It seemed to fit my situation perfectly, as the time commitment required was limited, but it would give me the opportunity to sing under your direction.
I distinctly remember the first season I gathered my courage to come to Choral Society. It was winter, and the first rehearsal was to be on one of those terribly cold January or February nights when schools and offices had been closed and the city was very quiet, except for the howling snow. Not knowing whether rehearsal would take place, I called the Cathedral, and surprisingly, was put directly through to you. I asked if the Choral Society rehearsal for that evening would proceed, given the bad weather. Your response was simply, â€śWell, Iâ€™ll be here.â€? The simplicity, clarity, and assuredness of your response resonated strongly to me, and I was there too! To my amazement, almost 40 people showed up that night, on time for the downbeat. This told me a lot about your professionalism, dedication, and ability to inspire the best in others.
A third small encounter with you led me even further down the path. I had already been singing with the Choral Society for about 3 years at the time of the celebration of your 25th anniversary at St. Markâ€™s. On the way out of the service that Sunday, I stopped to shake your hand in congratulations, and in thanking me, you said, â€śI hope youâ€™ll join us for Summer Choir.â€? That small bit of encouragement and connection, offered simply, was all it took to move me to the next step.
My time in the Cathedral Choir has been transformative for me. My spirituality has deepened considerably. As I remarked to a friend who asked me about my experience, â€śHow could you sing those words week after week and not be affected?â€? My skill as a musician has improved, thanks to your musicianship, Emmaâ€™s contributions, and lessons I have taken with Brian and Rick. I feel that my grounding has been re-shaped and re-discovered. I never think about the â€śCâ€? word [commitment] - as itâ€™s simply there. I never doubt that Iâ€™ll be able to follow through as a full participant. To the degree possible, I now plan my professional commitments around choir, rather than the reverse.
Your retirement evokes many feelings in me:
appreciation - for your qualities of professionalism, musicianship, and leadership - as a teacher myself, I have learned from you;
gratitude - for the opportunity to grow, learn, and deepen my spirituality;
sadness - that you will be leaving, but also;
happiness - that you will be able to be relieved of the extreme pressure of your role to do things at a manageable and enjoyable pace. (Will you be composing?? I hope so!)
So Don, Godspeed on your journey. Thank you for touching my life in small but very impactful ways. I am sure that my few vignettes are not unlike those that could be told by many others. And I hope that when I retire, a few students remember me with the fondness that many (such as I) remember you with.
Indeed, Godspeed on your journey.
from the FaurĂ© Requiem
In paradisum deducant angeli; in tuo adventu sucipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem.
Godâ€™s holy angels lead you to paradise; may saints in their glory receive you at your journeyâ€™s end, guiding your footsteps into the Holy City Jerusalem. Choirs of angels sing you to your rest, and with Lazarus raised to eternal life, may you forevermore rest in peace.
Haddayr, Another choir member, posted this moving remembrance of Don.
July 6, 2007
Friday Cat Blogging - Dylan & Chloe update
The New Mexico branch of our Tonkinese family is doing very well - they gravitate toward computers as much as their humans do. Here are Chloe and Dylan, enjoying their place of honor where their human works.
Chloe is a bit like our other females, MacKenzie and Sadie. She's on the smaller side and is a bit more stand-offish. She doesn't particularly like to be held or petted for very long.
Brother Dylan, on the other hand, is a bit like older brother Pookie - He's very into creature comforts and would probably share that brandy with Pookie, if he had a chance to. On the other hand, he's the one who bolts for the door when it opens and has led his human on many a chase around the parking lot. Fortunately, so far he has been willing to be caught.