Sunday, November 6, 2011

Playing Faure Requiem is Thought Provoking

Thanks to my increasing skills and interest in playing the bass, I found myself this weekend, by invitation, playing the Faure Requiem at Trinity Church in Menlo Park, California. Gabriel Faure (pictured) wrote it in the late 1880s and it has become very popular. Like many classical works, there are different arrangements.

It was a very satisfying--even moving--experience. Take a listen. And this is from someone who is not a Christian. It did leave me feeling like I don't have much of a spiritual life, though, as church services often do.

I was fortunate to work with some excellent musicians, led by the brilliant Michael Taylor, who has sung professionally for a quarter century yet still looks like a young man. He arranged our parts for this performance.

We were a small group, just flute, violin, viola, cello, bass and harp, but with the strength of the strong mixed choir and Taylor's sublime baritone we "rocked the house." I was a little bugged by my few missed notes and entrances, but I felt a little more nervous than I expected to--especially after making the first goof. I figured I would be forgiven in a church--and nobody seemed to either notice or mind (although I bet Michael heard them).

A requiem is a mass for the dead, and today, in the All Saints mass, many people were remembered, and listed, some with last names and some without. I didn't know any of them personally, but the grand sounds of the organ (which made my bass vibrate) and the fine choral work helped put me in the right frame of mind to think about the departed that I did know, starting with my father.

The senior associate rector, Rev. Frannie Hall Kieschnick, delivered a rousing sermon about the dead being carried with us, she said, in a kind of "balcony," able to give counsel, comfort and guidance. She even quoted a Jewish prayer that in essence said that the dead were not really gone if they lived on in our memories. Makes sense. I was so rapt in thinking about my dad that I missed an entrance--but jumped right in at the right place a couple of measures in--that was a wake-up call!

Despite being brought up as Jews, my parents weren't religious at all, although we did occasionally show up at temple and lit candles on Chanukah. My parents are (and were) good, honest, decent folks and not what I'd call "sinners" although they have surely had their moments, like anyone (and I guess we are all sinners, according to the church).

In any case, I didn't learn at home any reason to go to a house of worship when you wanted a spiritual connection. I think it's entirely possible that most church attendees are just showing up by habit, but something spiritually thought-provoking could seep in while they're sitting there, especially if beautiful music is playing. I don't know--but it would seem to increase the odds.

I'll have to think about it.

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