When McDoc and I were on vacation recently, we were taking a leisurely walk at the end of the day, and had the good fortune to be out at just the right time to watch a beautiful sunset, with its astonishing palette reds and pinks and oranges stretching across the horizon before giving way to purple twilight. The thought occurred to me, and I said it to McDoc, that even though the sun sets every day, watching it never gets old; in fact, it can still take your breath away no matter how many times you’ve seen it before.
I think beautiful music has much the same effect.
Two days ago, I wrote a post about the “Summer Sings” being presented by Masterworks Chorale, a chorus McDoc and I sing with. The second event of the series took place last night, featurng the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré. I’m quite familiar with this piece; I played the organ for a performance of it at my old church in San Diego; I conducted two movements of it with a community college chorus; and I’ve listened to it umpteen times, because McDoc plays the recording frequently (we have a whole Requiem playlist on heavy rotation, which may sound morbid, but it isn’t, really!). I’m basically sick and tired of it, to be perfectly honest! I still think it’s a beautiful piece, of course, but I thought I had become immune to it due to such frequent exposure. 😉
So there I was, minding my own business, singing along during the rehearsal portion of the evening. I was feeling pretty smug about how well I remembered the alto part, and what I didn’t remember, I was sight-reading like a fiend! Woo hoo!
Then we got to the last movement, “In Paradisum.” The altos don’t do much in this movement, which starts with a long, soaring melody for the soprano section. Here’s the Latin text and English translation:
In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.
May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.
I was digging on that soprano line, just appreciating the beauty of the music, to which I was perhaps not so immune after all! Then as I read the words, I felt a lump in my throat, and out of the blue, I started thinking about VirgoMom; this coming August, it’ll be 10 years since she passed away. By the time they got to “et cum Lazaro, I was toast. It was darn near impossible for me to come in on that last “requiem,” and the fact that the alto line at that point is set to the tune of “Three Blind Mice,” as I had frequently reminded my college chorus students, didn’t help one bit! 😉
What about you? What work of art never fails to move you, no matter how accustomed to it you think you are?
“In Paradisum” from Requiem by Fauré
Note: the audio is a little glitchy on this video, but I liked the performance.
I’m not a performer so I don’t have exactly the same experience, but there are many recordings and a few compositions that never fail to affect me. Almost anything with Jussi Björling … and especially the Pearl Fishers duet with Robert Merrill … will just grab my complete attention. I have to stop whatever I’m doing and listen.
Same piece, different movement,
In movement V. (Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna) at the Lux Aeterna portion.
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Let light eternal shine on them, O Lord,
with thy saints forever,
for thou art merciful.
Apart from the lyrics,
it’s the the music really,
as its keys
modulate, modulate, modulate, downward
and its chords
invert, invert, invert toward opacity
it peels away my defenses,
onion-layer by onion-layer, by onion-layer
then by some trick of music theory
as if swimming upward
from some tremendous,
swirling, murky depth
arising, buoyed swiftly,
the pressure and darkness
give way and suddenly
I breach into light and air
Fauré: Requiem, V. Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna
The whole movement for the context and integrity, but if all you got time for is the bleeding hunk in question, then from about 1:59 for the wind up, and to about 3:28 for the wrap up.