This past Sunday I was walking to go pick up my son who had an afternoon activity at the large Anglican church in town. As I was walking I was assaulted on a regular basis by the mega-thump of car stereos playing rap music, with of course the bass turned up to eleven. It was so ridiculously pervasive block after block that it pretty much sickened me and made me feel very depressed about the lack of interest by the general public in anything other than the crap put out by the rap and pop industry. It’s all about money, of course- if it's crap yet sells, that's all that matters, right? Well I guess classical music, jazz, authentic world music and many other styles don't matter, even though I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to prove the superiority, complexities, and rewards of so many other types of music over and beyond what is popular in the US today.
Anyway, this sadness I was feeling as I walked to the church really came over me- and to be honest, I have been a bit down lately anyway. I do suffer from periods of depression and I am not against letting people know that about me. So yeah, I was feeling pretty sucky!
But here is what happened next- I walked into the church and Aidan's activity was not quite done. And I also noticed that someone was playing the magnificent 1922 Casavant pipe organ there, so I wandered into the side of the sanctuary and listened for a bit. You might have though that this would cheer me up, but actually it was having the opposite effect. For as the organist finished playing a most epic piece there was no one there- I really didn’t count, since I had just wandered in to hear the last few minutes of this practice session. So the piece ended in a roaring forte and then-- silence. Nothing- no roar of an audience, just silence- reminding me of the proverbial tree falling in the forest. As the organist got up to leave, I said hi to him in the hallway. I didn’t even introduce myself as a composer like I usually do (who cares- does it matter all the time?) and asked him what he had been playing. He was very nice and told me it was a neglected piece by JS Bach. He then went on to tell me that he was practicing it because he was to be a part of a project by WFMT radio in Chicago to perform ALL of the JS Bach music for organ over a period of months in ten concerts. He also cheerfully told me that he had sort of volunteered to do the forgotten pieces that the other organists didn’t pick to play. I thanked him for his playing and wished him well. And all of a sudden my spirits were so much higher- for he had also gone on to tell me that WFMT had asked listeners if they would attend such a series of concerts and apparently the answer was a resounding yes. Would Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, or Kanye West or their followers be in the audience? Duh, no, but it least it made me feel like our classical art is not totally dying in front of our very eyes quite as much as I usually think it is. Here is info on the ten-concert series: http://www.wfmt.com/main.taf?erube_fh=wttw&wttw.submit.EventList=1#event673
And then something more happened! I heard voices singing upstairs- not old, tired church choir voices but truly great professional voices AND a sound I even recognized. I wandered upstairs and lo and behold, the professional choir Chicago A Cappella was rehearsing. They have done a lot of my music over the last ten years, for which I am very thankful. This is not their usual rehearsal space but for today (hmm, interesting) they were there working on some chant and chant-based music for their first concert of the season. I said hi (I saw some new faces and a new face directing for this concert- John William Trotta) and was also happy to introduce myself to the new members, since the group will be singing my Christmas spiritual “Ain' dat-a Rockin' All Night” in December. I left them alone to continue rehearsing some men's parts and had a nice, quick conversation with longtime member Betsy Grizzell.
|John William Trotter|
So what was going on here? It's pretty amazing that the universe dropped these two incidents right into my lap in the space of 15 minutes, isn't it? It made me feel so good, so hopeful, and made me want to throw away the depressing thoughts that were invading my space on the walk over to the church. And in fact, I have been pretty down for bits and pieces of this whole summer- I have been trying to shake it off, but with only partial results. Maybe this was a message to me not only about the music that I love, but also about how I need to embrace the positive aspects of life and to more firmly take control of my psyche and put the negative inner-thought monster into the naughty corner!
So thank you to the universe, and also JS Bach (you crazy genius you), the dear and very talented organist, WFMT radio, and Chicago A Cappella for your gift to me Sunday!