Of course, it's two in the morning in New York -- but I will find something there, for sure. Brahms on WQXR -- dare I write in this space that (except for the Academic Festival Overture, without which life would be even harder than it is) Brahms is not my absolute favorite composer? And they're playing tense contemporary music over on WNYC -- they do that often in the middle of the night. Don't they know people are trying to sleep? But wait -- ToscanaClassico is right here in my back yard and they're playing harpsichord. Ah. Grazie.
Holy Week is a hard week in church, but the week before it arrives is no rest cure, either. Clergy and laity alike reach for what they need to help them through, and many of them reach for music. As uphill as the preparation is, it does involve music, and that is a saving grace. You page through the hymnal, thumb through your memory to find something that will connect with the story as it unfolds. You find many things. Some of what you find will be possible, and some of that will unlock a new room in the hearts of some of the people who hear. How many of them? Well, some. That's all you ever know in this business.
And you? You sit in front of the computer screen for hours. When you venture out for the paper, you realize that you haven't left church property for days. You have been glued here. A better administrator than you are would have found a way to make this week a gentle and stately dance of sensible preparation for the church year's greatest feast, but you are not a better administrator than you are. You are left searching frantically for music to hold onto, music that will help you through the jitterbug you're doing.
You play music that sounds the way you wish you felt. Harpsichord music, pensive string quartets, studded here and there with the slightest of dissonances. Church music from medieval Spain. Organ music from the 17th century. Tallis motets. You play music from other ages, times in which people didn't expect things to happen instantly, times in which ideas had a chance to develop in layers, year upon year. Music with ample room in it for wonder and mystery. You play music that is the way you wish you were. And -- miracle! --hearing the music makes you a little more that way. A little more. Calmer than you were -- a little calmer, anyway. Music has prayed you into another place. Good -- somebody had to do it, and it was just beyond you this time.
The nice thing about church is that it's not all up to you. Not all the resources can come from within you. Maybe none of them can, not today. Church isn't just you at your very, very best. Sometimes it's you at your next-to-worst, and you must rely on others within it to carry you where you cannot go on your own. You may not have it all together, but at least you are not alone in this: they are there to lean on -- the composers and the organ builders, the painters and the sculptors. Many of them are dead, and hence have more time than you do. Things probably look a lot calmer from where they sit.
Ask them for help. Life swirled around them, too -- maybe not as fast as it swirls around you, but the past was no cakewalk. They survived it long enough, and with enough energy, to leave us beautiful things, things to hear and see, things that can take us to a better place at times when we really need to go to one.
Here's a note from Matthew Moretz, better known to many as Fr. Matthew of "Fr. Matthew Presents," that intriguing, funny and often moving set of videos that have delighted and instructed millions of YouTube viewers:
Dear Geranium Farmers,
I’d like to announce the new release of the DVD “Father Matthew Presents
the Sacraments.” This DVD collection is available on the CreateSpace
e-store. You can find it here:
This DVD is a high quality collection of all the YouTube “webisodes”
that were produced throughout 2008 to teach about the Sacraments,
outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual graces. The collection
also includes the meditation “Eucharistia” featuring the Southern
Virginian members of the adult formation conference at Shrinemont
Conference Center. As a Creative Commons work, the DVD is authorized for use in public educational settings.
As an added bonus, subscribers to the Geranium Farm get a Discount Code that will give you $2.00 off your purchase. Here’s the code that you
enter in at the e-store: 6JPSJTHB The DVD can also be found on
Amazon.com, but without the discount.
Thank you for watching “Father Matthew Presents!”
And happy birthday to the Hodgepodge -- this favorite Farm neighborhood is four years old already! If the Geranium Farm were a church, the HodgePodge would be the parish kitchen, with one important difference: it's full of helpful hints and interesting observations -- but no gossip! Drop in at www.geraniumfarm.org/hodgepodge