I had planned to drive to Atlanta Thursday afternoon for a quick overnight trip even though it meant I would skip class. There has been an exhibit of new works by photographer Andrew Moore at Jackson Fine Art, and this past weekend had appeared to be my only window of opportunity as the exhibit closes this week. Alas, its was not to be. I decided not to go. The snow and ice we had Thursday was not the reason, although I have no idea what the weather was like on the road to Atlanta, but the appearance of yet another ice storm confirmed the feasibility of my decision.
My decision was more an admission of "not yet" than an indication of lack of interest. I do admire the work of Mr. Moore, and would be interested in a future purchase. I am willing, and interested, in travel merely for the sake of art and music. But I am not yet ready, and the logistics of the less than 48 hour trip filled me with more stress than the thought of the art. It seems my period of settling in continues.
And so the weekend was spent running mundane, but necessary, errands around town. In truth it was a rather pleasant activity. Tikka went with me some of the time. I had forgotten how enjoyable errand-running could be, if one so allowed. Of course this may have primarily been because I had successfully avoided it for nearly a month, what with colds and ice-storms and snow. In previous weeks I had simply decided that I could do without. But as we all know, that state can only go on for so long.
The weekend ended with a concert, a short concert of choral works, sung by the parish choir of the Church of the Ascension as part of the Friends of Music and the Arts program. It was a rather ambitious program for an amateur choir, consisting of works by Duruflé and Poulenc, but despite a bit of struggle with some passages, it was overall, a lovely and moving concert.
The choir opened with Duruflé's Quatre Motels sur des themes Grégoriens, a work that always seems to me to capture some sense of spiritual presence and joy. Upon hearing the opening notes of the Ubi Caritas, I simply felt any residual tension fall away from my shoulders and calm descend, and I was able to simply relax into the joy of the music.
The Duruflé was a good opening for the music of Poulenc, which followed. The Quatre Petites Prières de Saint Francois d'Assise, for male voices, opened with such utter simplicity and stark beauty I could not help but be moved. The choir captured this beauty, and at a few points even captured that rascally sense of irreverence that is often woven into Poulenc's works, that sense of reaching for the holy but of always being somewhat constrained by the irreverence of humanity. It is subtle in this work, and sometimes overlooked, but I was thrilled to hear a hint in this performance, whether accidental or intentional. As I sat and listened, I could hear George singing softly next to me, as he once would have done, as he loved Poulenc, loved choral works for male voices, and would often sing under his breath during concerts. He had a lovely deep bass voice, and as I heard him singing, I was filled with that sense, not a bad sense in any way, of how those we love are always with us, a part of our basic makeup, always there when we need them, to remind us of some sense of ourselves, our personal saints in a sense.
The concert ended with Poulenc's Mass in G Major, a work where the fault lines between the divine and the human are far more apparent. This work, with its abrupt shifts in meter, its complex polytonality that verges on atonality, seems to capture a sense of an overwhelming straining and yearning for the divine, a state that cannot be maintained in its awe-inspiring beauty (and terror). In this work the difficulties of the text were more apparent, but there were moments when the sopranos achieved that ethereal angelic beauty that Poulenc was aiming for in this piece, angelic beauty offset by the disruption and dissonance of human life. What Poulenc captures in this music, and what the choir managed to highlight was this sense of fragility of life and of faith; that in the midst of life there is death, dissonance, and disruption, and yet that apparently fragile thread of faith remains constant and strong.