Death is on my mind today. Long-time readers of this blog will, of course, recognize that this isn’t really unusual, since I think a lot about mortality and our treatment of the dead. And certainly with an unusually awful early hurricane season combined with seismic activity in Mexico, I’m thinking about, and praying about, the dead and their survivors in Chiapas, in Mexico City, in Texas and Puerto Rico and Barbuda and beyond. But today I’m thinking specifically about Earrach of Pittsburgh, whose funeral is this afternoon.
There’s a certain lift that can happen sometimes, when singing. Or, I suppose I should say, there’s a certain lift that happens to me sometimes when I’m singing, a moment when the composer has written a particularly stirring chord progression. Perhaps it’s a suspension where one line rises, aching, tipping on the edge of dissonance before resolving into the cadence. Or perhaps an unspooling of harmony, the voices calling out in unison and then peeling off until the music shifts from one monochromatic tone to a welter of harmonies intertwining. Or the inverse, a tangling near-cacophony of complex lines combining as if by magic to ring out one spare, simple motif.
It’s near a week past Samhain, but I feel like it’s still haunting me. In the Catholic Church where I was raised, most holidays aren’t really a single day, but rather the high points of longer periods of preparation and continuance, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: I’m still in Samhain’s penumbra, or perhaps I might say I’m living through Samhaintide. Whatever I call it, I’m still strongly feeling the mantle of death and the dead on the world as we begin the journey into the dark half of the year.
Continue reading We’re all leaving: death and the glory of life
Back in mid-December, the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus presented Joy!, our annual holiday concert. Like most such concerts, Joy! is only nominally a ‘holiday’ concert; really it’s a Christmas concert, with a token Hannukah piece or two and a smattering of nondescriptly-wintery-but-who-are-we-kidding-really-Christmasy songs. And let me be clear here: I’m fine with that. Our artistic staff does a great job of trying to cast a wide net, but in order for a song to exist in a choral arrangement it really needs to (1) be associated with a tradition that has a history of choral singing; (2) be commercially viable, since composers and arrangers need to pay their rent like the rest of us. For these and other reasons, pagan Yule carols for men’s chorus aren’t exactly growing on trees. Continue reading Under the snow waits the promise of May
I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about the way art interacts with my religion, especially when it can seem like my art is somehow getting in the way of my religious practice. Usually this is a nebulous time-management question, but sometimes there are clearcut moments: this weekend, for example, Three Cranes Grove’s vernal equinox rite will honor Indra, the Vedic god of storms, and will ask him to to send his rains to the waking earth. I’d love to attend and join in that communal ritual, but I have a conflict: I’ll be on stage with the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, celebrating our shared history in a 25-year retrospective show. Additionally, the final rehearsal process for that same show is taking up a good deal of my mental space and energy this week. After a full day of work and 4+ hours of evening rehearsal, I can only manage the time and energy for a brief whispered prayer before I fall asleep. Continue reading Following the heron: art, time, and prayer