Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Lux Perpetua Luceat Eis

On Saturday evening I hied over to the Church of St. Luke in St. Paul
for a concert given by the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra (the local
gay and lesbian orchestra in which I sometimes play) and the One Voice
Mixed Chorus (the Twin Cities' GLBT community chorus). I'd never had
occasion before to enter St. Luke's, which is a monstrous and magnificent
edifice, a reminder of the time when the Catholics ruled St. Paul with a
mighty sword and a glittering treasury. The orchestra conductor noted at
one point that we might be wondering why they had chosen to hold this
concert in a church; the answer is "Because of the organ".

The major piece of the concert, filling the entire second half, was a
joint performance of Faure's Requiem. The first half of the concert
was mostly split between the two groups. The orchestra, for their segment
in the first half, chose to perform Mahler's Songs of the Wayfarer, with
a baritone soloist.

The Mahler was amazing. If you're ever in the sort of lovesick misery state
that might send you to your Billie Holiday recordings, consider the
despairing self-pitying protagonist of the Mahler piece instead. His beloved
is marrying somebody else, and in lovely descending melody lines he sings (in

When my sweetheart has her wedding,
has her joyful wedding,
I will have my wretched day!
I'll go to my little room!
I'll weep! I'll weep for my sweetheart,
for my beloved sweetheart!...

The next movement is mostly the story of the merry chirping annoying finch,
singing of the lovely world amidst the bluebells. Line after line of
this, until the final line, the singer's firm response: "No! No! What
I love can never bloom for me!" He goes on to the third movement: "I
have a glowing knife, a knife in my breast, alas! alas!" You get the
idea. Concluding line of the fourth movement: "Love and pain! And world
and dream!"


But the really amazing part of the concert was the Faure itself. It sometimes
surprises people to hear this, but I'm not much of a fan of choral music.
Oscar Levant once said that he's not ascetic enough to enjoy choral music,
but with me it's more a question of aesthetics than ascetics. I find the
particular aesthetic of seamless blend and lovely tone with its associated
repression of idiosyncratic vocal texture to be, well, something that doesn't
particularly engage me. The larger the group, the more pronounced this
becomes for me. If I can't distinguish individual voices, I'm not much

And yet the Requiem began, and continued, and to my own surprise I was
genuinely moved. It was a lovely, lovely piece. It's not as if I'd never
heard the words before, but for some reason everything came together and
I was transported. It was eye-opening. I was invigorated and relaxed at its
conclusion. Tremendous kudos to the chorus, who performed with a skill that
wholly belies their amateur status.

Afterwards I went to a small gathering of about a dozen of the night's
performers, including the organist. It was a gathering of men and women from
both groups, connected in various ways, who were happy to be with each
other, to gather their resources for the next day's performance in a distant
suburb. I got home at 2am, thinking (as always) about music and community,
and feeling very good.
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