Friday, December 4, 2009

"Comfort Ye, My People ..."

I felt imprisoned this afternoon, penned in by obligations and snow and this incessant wind. Today is the day I traditionally begin anticipating in August when I come to the realization that summer is drawing to a close and that tickets for the CPO fall and winter concerts will soon be for sale.

Today is the day my friend Mary and I were to attend the CPO's production of Handel's Messiah. It is no exaggeration to say that the Messiah is the musical highlight of my year. If it were at all possible - and, actually, before I reopened the teahouse it was possible - I would go to the Friday performance, the Saturday performance, and the Sunday sing-along. There is just something about this work, lifted from the poetry of the King James Version of the Bible and the lilting, joyful baroque musical stylings of Georg Frideric, that causes my heart to soar throughout the Christmas season.

But of course early today the wind started to mock my carefully laid plans. Highways were closed; YYC was shut down; reports of jack-knifed semis and buses stalled across two lanes of traffic were dutifully phoned in by concerned family and friends.

And at about 10:30 I yielded to the gale force and decided to take the safe route of staying put. After all, I know this music: I have performed in productions of it in India and in the U.S. and have enjoyed it almost every year in Canada. I even wrote my O Level music paper around the Nilgiris Choral Society's annual production of the Christmas and Easter portions of the work.  Did I really need to sit through another performance?

Ahhh, but I have also been privileged to see Mary herself singing with the CPO Chorus some Christmases ago under the testy, heady direction of the wonderful Ivars Taurins. Part of the magic of attending the annual performance with Mary is in seeing her eyes like stars, her beautiful face glowing like it's been lit by a hundred Christmas tree candles, as she disappears inside the music, occasionally consulting her well-marked score. Part of the joy is in knowing that she knows this music, both the score and the heart of it, the music and the meaning, outside and in. This is what she wrote me in one of our email exchanges in anticipation of the evening:

"And he shall purify -- all the lace of sixteenth notes coming in from all 4 corners of the world (SATB) ... I get teary eyed just thinking about it"

And I got teary eyed thinking about missing it. In fact, I wept, disconsolate, on the phone to my sisters as I asked one of them to go with Mary in my stead, as I stumbled over my phone request to the CPO to change the will-call tickets from my name to Mary's.

Mary and I met years ago when we both worked for Carswell. Somehow, despite all our differences, we became friends. Her two sons remind me of two of my nephews. Her husband has always welcomed me to their home with great kindness. When I have the chance to spend time with her or her family, I leap at it.

Finally late this afternoon I huddle in a purple chair in front of the fireplace, contemplating the driving snow and the driving conditions and the driving pain in my heart. I turn on no music. There are no melodies that can ease the catch in my throat, no lyrics that can compensate for the inexplicable feeling of desolation I labour under today.

I think it is because the realization has been brought to bear on me today for the first time that I am no longer a "city girl" who can pop down town in my own car or hail a cab or hop on the C-train -- for the first time I am unable to carry out my plan due to the weather. Never before in all these years of living in Three Hills have I missed an event due to weather. I can no longer pretend to myself that though I sleep and shower and work in Three Hills, my own life continues on in Calgary.

(The other thing the weather did was prevent me from buying the weekly groceries for the TH. But I did get the dining room pulled back into shape and cleaned, and we will muddle along through tomorrow as best we can.)

This evening, shortly after the real performance starts in Calgary, I finally put on the collection of Messiah arias and the Hallelujah chorus that are loaded on my iPod. The pace of the singers is brisk and business-like; a few of the notes do not ring completely true ... but it is the ancient words and age-old melodies that ease the futility of the day, that assuage the disappointment in the weather and in myself.

Then as I hear "Comfort Ye, My People" I am given a measure of reassurance that I am indeed in the right place at the right time. I am meant to be in Three Hills for now, despite the weather and the staffing and the sadness that days like this can conjure up:

...And cry unto her that her warfare, her warfare is accomplished,
that her iniquity is pardoned ...

And, as Mary and I have said for years now when there is nothing that can be done, Oh well.

Oh well.

The wind stops howling for a few moments, just long enough for the trumpet to sound. And I am comforted.

1 comment:

  1. It has been two years since I enjoyed the Croak-along Messiahs in your company (CPO and Voicescapes being the performing companies). Here in Victoria I thought there'd be a sing-along in every church. Wrong, wrong, little off-key-singing Alto Jane. However: Saturday the 19th, at some unsuspecting stage in old lady downtown Victoria...I shall warble and wobble and think fondly of you, darlink chum.


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