Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still, Still, Still...

... one can hear the falling snow. For all is hushed, the world is sleeping, holy star its vigil keeping ... .

    Truth is, I’m not much of a Christmas fan. Today I sat in a Thai restaurant in Germany, and was forced to listen to Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album. What the... ?

Sleep, sleep, sleep, ‘tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth. The night is peaceful all around you. Close your eyes, let sleep surround you ... .

    Truth is, I am yet to be convinced of the whole “Jesus is the reason for the season” thing. Recently, I have engaged in very fascinating discussions on religion -- partially due to preparing the role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar and partially due to defending gay marriage to Mormons. I find each side of the story has validity and historical meaning. But as for my own conviction ... I’m still working on it.

Dream, dream, dream of the joyous day to come. While guardian angels without number, watch you as you sweetly slumber ... .

    Truth is, when I hear this song, “Still, still, still” and the other two dozen or so choral arrangements from my time in choirs at Northern Arizona University, I just have to bawl my head off a little bit. 

    They say the first four years of your life are your formative years. To be sure, I learned a lot in the last four years at the theater in Coburg, but that somehow pales in comparison to the middle four years between 18 and 22 in Flagstaff. This was where the power of music was instilled in me. (In fairness, I’d probably have to tack on the four years prior to that, where I spent each summer at music camp in the same magical, mountain city). 

    When I hear the sounds of the NAU Choral Union, my head reels with memory overload. Just to name a few.... 

    • Parties in my fabulous kitchen, in my wonderful house on Grand Canyon Avenue, held together with spackle and paint. This was where Jeff Erby (the world’s shyest, but most amazing bass) had his first drink, by the way. Triscuit treats, anyone?

    • Speaking of bass, Brandon Jovanovich used to sit behind me singing  bass in Chorale. Now he’s a world-class tenor. Who knew?
    • Dr. Cloud knew, that’s who. She was my very first voice teacher, and to this day I call upon her for advice - vocally or otherwise. I hope she remembers the time I told her, “You planted the seed. All I had to do was grow.”
    • We sang Shelley’s “Music, When Soft Voices Die.” I remember Rodney Laulo telling us how meaningful that text was to him, shortly after his father had been tragically killed in a work accident. Rose leaves, when the rose is dead, are heaped for the beloved’s bed... .
    • Dr. Copley conducted Verdi’s Ave Maria so elegantly, despite grieving her father’s death. With her back to the audience, she let the tears freely flow, and we were met with the challenge to sing as beautifully as possible - not for us, not for the audience, but for her.
    • Singing through tears became almost routine, at least for me and the other graduating seniors, during choir tour in the Eastern United States and Germany and Vienna. I remember Kit Bellamy and I trying to make each other laugh during concerts so that we wouldn’t cry. This of course resulted in our not being able to sing because we were laughing too hard. Surely, neither of us sang the final refrains of Set me as a seal upon your heart, for love is strong as death. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
    • At the time of writing I’m listening to the NAU Choral Union’s “Simple Graces” recording. Brennen Maynard’s jazzy tenor telling me to have myself a merry little Christmas. Hard to believe that one of us is not with us now.

    For the most part, it was a joyous time. After all, I found my first “big love” at NAU. 
    And my second. 
    And my third (okay, this is just getting embarrassing now).
    Here are some random quotes for your amusement. Do you recognize them?

    • “Where’d you get these croissants? They’re so buttery and flakey!”
    • “F-I-N-E  fine!!!”
    • “Nice Sandals. And look at that ass!”
    • “Don’t call me ‘honey!’”
    I could go on and on and on.... I haven’t even mentioned my entire core group of friends yet, at least not by name - I hope you know who you are. 

    I am anxiously awaiting the day where I feel so at home as I did back then - where, no matter what happened, there was always a part of my day where something made sense, where life was in tune. From 3:00 to 3:50pm. Eternity shut in a span...

Summer in Winter, Day in Night
Heaven in Earth and God in Man!
Great little one, whose glorious birth
lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to Earth.
To Thee, meek Majesty, soft King
of Simple Graces and Sweet Loves!

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