Don't miss this post about Ipods, Robert Shaw, and the power of choral music.
I remembered these things, of course, but I had filed them away in the back of my mind until one day recently I decided to find them on I tunes and download them. I was walking across the parking lot to Sears, as a matter of fact, when I plugged into my Ipod and the first bars of "Christ on the Mount of Olives" came in. I still remembered most of the alto part. But what struck me then was the memory of my mother sitting in the audience (my sister wasn't interested, and my dad stayed home with her). For the first time, I thought about what it would have been like to be her at that moment, and to hear that amazing music, and to see her daughter up there on the stage helping make it. I could put myself in her place, and if it had been me, watching one of my own daughters, I think my heart would have burst. Maybe hers did.
. . . . .
The gift Mr. Shaw gave me was not just the gift of music, which would have been rich enough; it was the gift of a kind of spiritual insight which it took years--decades--to ripen in me. Now I am 51, and I suffer from depression, and in recent months it's been particularly bad (with brief episodes of lucidity). But the consolation of music is not just a phrase; it's real. It is balm to my soul; it is water on arid soil. Mr. Shaw did not condescend to us; the works that he chose for us to sing appear on some of his best-known recordings, sung by some of the best voices ever assembled in one place. They are also, many of them, about pain that is impossible to put into words: the longing for peace, the longing for transcendence. Ecstasy. In a dark time, these are pieces of light.