17 April 2011


Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, op. 23 - Tchaikovsky

Sunday afternoon in spring and free ticket with a friend to the St. Louis Symphony. Mostly white/gray heads which remind me of the history behind this music and the pastime called "going to the Symphony". Mostly white skin in the audience. A grand concert hall in what they call "midtown" these days - on a street lined with black "old"-but-actually-new fashioned street lights perhaps harkening back to "midtown"s hey day. Inside - red plush carpet and red plush seats marked with numbers in rows marked with letters. The musicians with skin colors spanning the spectrum: black, white, Asian, Hispanic - but all dressed in black. I suppose the dressing in black is to create visual uniformity meant to prevent distraction from the aural experience of the music.

The cacophany of practice as musicians stroll onto stage as they arrive, the tuning after the entrance of Mr. 1st chair violin, the entrance of the conductor and the guest pianist with applause, and then silence before "the storm".

This is quite a piece. The guest pianist was phenomenal. I used to play the piano. But my fingers never did anything resembling what this Israeli's fingers did for 40 minutes or so over those ivories. From thundering power to feathery dancing up and down the keyboard - I've never seen or heard anything like it. His right foot pounding on and off the pedal, his greying hair thrown about as his head was tossed around in passionate participation in the piece, practically jumping off the bench at the completion of a movement. The speed and ease and power and gentleness this man played with was just stunning...and the sound produced was breathtaking. I wish my words could do it justice, but what a gift to sit and soak it all in.

The culture of quiet from the audience save the pause between movements which was evidently the unspoken cue for everyone to cough and clearn their throat, the standing ovations and encores, the wine and red velvet cake concessions in the main hall outside, the children dressed in their sunday best - suspenders and patent leather - surprisingly none of whom looked as if it were drugery that they were forced to be there.


The woman jamming on the corner

Upon leaving the aforementioned event, a few blocks away, while stopped at a stoplight, the delightful experience of the freeform groove of a woman, with old school headphones in place over her ears, smiling, singing and dancing her heart out on a street corner. Waving to people in cars as they drove by who no doubt were as pleasantly surprised to see her as I was, her water bottle and towel on the wall several feet from her stage of concrete - it looked like she planned to be there for a while.

In some strangely delightful way, equally as magnificent as the performance in the grand concert hall blocks away.

The church bells of St. Roch's

Walking home from my neighborhood coffee shop last week at 6pm, I strolled past St. Roch's, the neighborhood parish and school that is a pillar of this neighborhood in an unspoken way. As I strolled past, the clock in the steeple struck the top of the hour and the bells announced the passing of another hour. The reverberations of the bells were felt in my chest as I passed, the power of the sound was remarkable. It's a welcomed power. A welcomed reminder of stability. When I stood in my yard in Uganda in the evenings talking to my parents on the phone, I would often hear the St. Roch's bells in the background as they sat on their back porch that faced the church on the next street over...A sound of stability. A sound of establishment. A sound of history.


"Things change, I guess..."

Said the 15 year old describing the friends who didn't know what to say, and the parents overcome with sadness in her recent diagnosis with a terminal form of cancer. This is the reality of my week this week...not terminal cancer...but the sinking in of reality that has been building for the last 7 months since I've been back in St. Louis...Things have changed since I lived here last. Describing this to someone this week I totaled something like 5 marriages that happened while I was in Uganda - marriages of good friends of mine, mostly to other friends of mine...my community here changed drastically while I was gone, and while everybody else got to adjust gradually, it's been an abrupt change for me upon being physically present here again. Change that has no fault to be assigned, no ill will, no hurt inflicted, just change. Change to be faced and grieved, change that I'd rather try to ignore or insist doesn't actually exist. But it does, and I'm sad. But my Father, He never changes.


"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"

"...how vast beyond all splendor, that He should give His only Son, and make a wretch His treasure." I stood next to my brother in the communion circle as the piano started into this hymn this morning and whispered to him, "this is a doozy." The familiarity, the reminder of my team in Uganda, and the weathered truth for this treasured wretch this Palm Sunday...