Perhaps those of you who are classical music and/or orchestra fans may have caught a recent video snippet going around on social media sites. The video is of the acclaimed conductor, Ricardo Muti’s opening remarks to the audience of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (where he is principal conductor), upon their return to live performances in late September of this year—after an almost 19-month pandemic-induced hiatus. You can view his comments here:
In bemoaning the absence of live music, theatre, and dance for these extended and challenging months, Muti addresses the audience in profoundly moving words. Describing the importance of art and culture in society, Muti observes that live music offerings are not merely “entertainment”, but crucially important to living hearts and minds. We attend live concerts to feed our emotions and our souls, and to experience the live SOUNDS of beauty and harmony. The lack of culture can be damaging to a society, as it also affects the interrelationships between people—without art and culture, a society can become savage. Furthermore, musicians and other performing artists who have been quiet during the pandemic desperately need to be able to communicate the true reasons/deepest meanings of their personal and professional lives. While these observations might state the obvious, the emptiness and suffering resulting from the denial of live art and culture is one thing that the pandemic has most acutely shown and instructed.
When the majority of your UUCC staff were able to return to the sanctuary for worship this September, there was immense joy and relief for the privilege to once again share and connect in a live way. While many in our congregation still remain safely tuned in through the Zoom platform for now, I for one, have been truly grateful for the opportunity to offer live music to some of you—to hear, to see, to sense and to feel your close presence on Sunday mornings. It feeds my soul. I eventually hope to see more and more of you in-person as the overall Covid case numbers enable us to safely do so.
I’m also thrilled that our in-house classical series, the Chalice Concerts, will once again welcome a live musician into our sanctuary on November 6. I am excited to hear John Bullard on classical banjo, a novel and unusual pairing indeed. John’s goal is to bring out qualities and possibilities in the banjo that haven’t yet been explored and recognized, sort of like the journey that the guitar took—from primarily a folk instrument to a classical one. Consider reserving a ticket to hear this unique and intimate recital!
In terms of the Chalice Choir, we are back together with one another, rehearsing in the sanctuary on Thursday evenings, albeit masked and distanced, and for an abbreviated interval of no more than 45-minutes at a time. What began as an outdoor recording experiment soured by unexpected rainfall, turned into a fortuitous and wonderful group decision to return to safely singing with one another. This has been a boon for both our mental and musical health, as the long absence apart and stress of having to create virtual-only offerings really began to take a toll on our numbers and general morale. Of course, we still are unable to sing for the congregation in worship, and our ultimate purpose remains sadly unfulfilled for now. But at least we are taking incremental steps towards a Sunday morning return on our chancel.
Your Chalice Choir has also resumed recording, and will offer a beautiful new anthem for Remembrance Sunday on November 7, as well as some other fun and vibrant singing on November 21 for Membership Sunday. We are also preparing some Christmas anthems to share for our usual Holiday Music service, which will be on December 12. None of us enjoy singing behind a mask, and I’m sure our sound and consonant clarity suffer some as a result—but the experience of once again being together is irreplaceable, even four feet apart!
In closing, I offer a beautiful excerpt I recently came across, from the words of Living American poet Ross Gay, which speaks to the power and importance of communal culture:
“We are a music-making species—always have been, always will be—and music’s capacity to explore, express, and address what it is to be human remains one of our greatest communal gifts. . . We evolved by coming together around the fire every night, singing songs and telling stories—invariably, telling stories through singing songs. That’s what our ancestors did; that’s how they made sense of the world and each other; that’s how they learn how to be. It is an impulse that is still fundamental to who we are.”
In musical community,