Love, Loss, and Resilience 

Love, Loss, and Resilience 

I just returned from a 5-day visit to southern VA to be with my family, following the unexpected death of my brother-in-law last month. It was a meaningful, but bittersweet time with my parents and siblings—as the simmering sadness just beneath the surface was palpable. Things will never be completely the same again, and my heart aches for my sister’s loss—and especially for their two children (age 17 and 20) who will miss many future holidays, trips, graduations, etc… without the wonderful father they had come to know and love. It all seems so unfair, and when being with everyone, at times I had feelings of guilt knowing that I for now, am still privileged to continue living while others have to suffer deep and profound loss. While I can and will, be there for my sister, niece and nephew in any way that I am able (from a distance, however), it won’t be the same as the continued loving presence of their parent.

So, if you will indulge me a moment, I’d like to honor his memory briefly here. Kenyon was wonderful man in many ways, and I always thought of him as a kind of Renaissance man of sorts. He seemed to have encyclopedic knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, was a wonderful raconteur, and the true definition of a southern gentleman if there ever was one. Kenyon was a history teacher, a school superintendent as well as a talented organist/singer/choir master. He always had a part-time church job for the majority of his life, and loved music. He also collected antique and vintage cars. Kenyon embodied patience and wise counsel, qualities which he passed down to his children. Since his death, many people in the school system where he worked remarked at what wonderful “boss” he was. He became such an important part of my extended family’s life, and he will be missed terribly.

His son, John, has acquired many of his father’s gifts and interests—particularly vintage cars and music. John has played the violin and piano since a young age, when he quickly picked up music by ear. While attending college, he recently started a part-time church gig at a local Episcopal church, and it seems as though he may be seriously considering becoming a full-time church musician when he graduates. Of course, that is (mostly!) wonderful news for me. I will mentor him in any way I can going forward.

I am soon about to embark to Florida for my annual summer music festival in Sarasota, where I spend three weeks every June making music with wonderful colleagues. During my remarks at the recent Spring Music Service, I mentioned that I was exactly the same age at UUCC. Well, the Sarasota Music Festival is ALSO turning 60 this year! I’ve been attending this festival since 1994, and it has become an important part of my musical life over the last 3 decades. I am grateful that the staff and congregation of UUCC allow me to continue to take part in this festival experience, as I look forward to it every June. It comes at a time in the year when I need rest, a change of scenery, and some freshly inspired music making. It remains one of my most professional musical associations, and is a place where I can interact with talented young conservatory students and truly world-class professional teachers and performers. I always come away from this festival invigorated with new musical ideas, a restored sense of love and appreciation for my art—and a refreshed perspective, ready to share and pass forward to others for another academic and congregational year.

The Sarasota Music Festival has a relatively new artistic director (he started slightly before the Covid pandemic) who has brought in many new and super gifted instrumentalists from all around the world, while broadening the scope of the music we perform there — which for years was primarily written by deceased, white European men. These changes have renewed the festival, attracted more students and provided the community with a deeper, more comprehensive and diverse canon of musical performances to supplement the “classics”.

When in Sarasota, we are housed in a beautiful hotel which overlooks the bay, and in between rehearsals and masterclasses, we lounge by the pool, take trips to the beach and eat too much wonderful seafood in many fabulous restaurants. I know—rough life, right? 😊 Over the years, I have taken countless photographs of both the scenery of Florida’s beautiful west coast, as well as pics of the many musicians I have encountered during the festival. I am including two here, please see below. Both are taken at last June’s (2023) festival. One, a dinner pic with two wonderful guest artists that summer: on the right is the violinist, Melissa White (I played harpsichord for her performance of the Vivaldi Seasons (“Summer”)); and on the left is the oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, from the renowned Imani Winds (a woodwind quintet). I am also including one of many sunset pics taken from my hotel room balcony at the Sarasota Hyatt. They are always spectacular, and in spite of residing there for 30+ years every June, I never tire (or take for granted) of that often-breathtaking view!

I will depart for Florida on June 2, but return that last week of June to be present with you for the last two worship services as we bid a fond, yet sad farewell to our longtime minister, Paige Getty.

In musical community,
Michael

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