What is choral music?
It is many voices, joined together, standing together, creating something together that wasn’t there before.
It is holy, this process. We stand together, holding each other up, offering our strengths when another is weak, encouraging each other to learn, to grow.
We follow a director. Sometimes.
We trust that director, and have faith that our director knows what he or she is doing, even if we don’t agree.
We bring our own experiences to the ensemble, adding our own joy, our own sorrow, our own challenges, our own process. We stand together and help distill our experiences into one shared experience.
We laugh in rehearsal. We make jokes that only we understand.
We weep in rehearsal. It is hard not to be moved by the intimacy and rawness of the experience.
We get angry and frustrated when the music is harder than we want it to be. We get angry and frustrated with each other. We get angry at ourselves.
We get tired. Music is hard.
We let go of the things over which we have no control. We have faith that everyone else will sing.
We admire other singers’ talents, other singers’ passion, other singers’ experiences.
We support each other.
We are community.
* * *
This week’s Musica della sera was dedicated to Ron Drake, and his wife, Mary Maggini. Ron has been fighting cancer for the last two years, and was nearing the end of his fight. I had hoped that I could play some music that would help ease his passing. Ron is a self-taught musician, a pianist, and loved the music of the Beatles. He would play a piece over and over, and teach himself how to make the music that he heard.
Ron (aka “MacDaffy”) and Mary (“Melmo”) met in an online forum. The community that formed in that place was more than just a bunch of people getting together to argue politics. We talked about art, music, writing, politics, parenting, technology, media, relationships, and silly stuff. We talked about our lives and told stories, wrote poetry together, and connected even closer than many friends in person connect. We supported each other through rough times — even sent money when we were in crisis. When we travel, we crash on each other’s couches and have loud raucous dinners or picnics or gatherings, known as “F2Fs” (face-to-faces). We went on vacations together. (One vacation my family took to the Jersey shore with other members of this community, I will always remember my son Julian looking up at me as we jumped in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and saying, “Mama? This is the best day of my whole entire life.” He was seven.)
More than one marriage resulted from this community. Ron and Mary were one of them. I’m not entirely sure when they met, but it wasn’t that long ago. They talked, they connected. The spark that began then ignited into fire, and they were married soon after, on December 29, 2011. They lived together in a little house with a big garden and dogs and art and a piano and music and books and beautiful things. I often said that I wanted to be adopted by them.
And soon after that, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Mary and Ron fought the cancer. They researched. Mary discovered cannabis oil, and Ron responded so very well to that treatment. (She is now a huge advocate of the use of medicinal cannabis.) He was already bald, so at least he didn’t have to lose his hair again! They argued, they loved. He would walk into a room and say, “I must put my lips on you!” and kiss her on the head. His smile was reflected in her eyes, always.
Mary and Ron recently disappeared from the community for a few months. I wondered where they were, and wondered how they were doing. But Mary came back online about a week ago, with the news that Ron was nearing the end of his journey on this earth.
The community outswelling was inspiring. Over 200 people — more than I realized were even as a part of the community — posted words of support. So many heartfelt words, so much poetry, so many beautiful photographs, so much music. We all knew what this community meant to them, and we all wanted them to know that they mean just as much to us. A meme arose out of our collective grief: Our Arms Are Not Tired. We are not tired of holding them in the light, holding them close to our hearts, wishing Ron safe and secure passage, wishing Mary the strength she needed and the safety to be weak when she couldn’t be strong any more.
I live very close to Melmo and Mac (collectively known as “Melmac”), but didn’t want to intrude on their final days together. But I did want to give them something, and what better than choral music.
Music of a community. Voices joined together in support in love. Many coming together to weep, to laugh, to remember, to support.
Ron and Mary listened to Musica della sera last night. They listened to the music. They listened to the words.
And about one hour after the show was over, Ron slept.
Rest in peace, Ron Drake, MacDaffy. And Mary? We’re still here for you. Our arms are still not tired.
* * *
Playlist for Thursday, April 10, 2014
||Riri Shimada, piano
||Music for You
||Let down the bars, O Death
||Los Angeles Chamber Singers, Peter Rutenberg, conductor
||Shenandoah: An American Chorister 1890 – 1990
|As one who has slept
||Polyphony, Stephen Layton, conductor
||Songs Without Words:▪ Nos. 1, 2, 7, 9, 12, 18, 25
||Daniel Adni, piano
||Mendelssohn: Songs without Words
|Nunc dimittisWhich was the Son of…
||Polyphony, Stephen Layton, conductor
||Song of the Angel
||The Choir and Orchestra of The Academy of Ancient Music, Paul Goodwin, director
|Angel’s Flight: A Tone Poem
||I Cantori, Edward Cansino, conductor
||A Choir of Angels
|Lux Aeterna (1997)▪ Introitus
▪ In te, Domine, speravi
▪ Oh nata lux
▪ Veni, Sancte Spiritus
▪ Agnus Dei – Lux aeterna
|Polyphony, Stephen Layton, conductorBritten Sinfonia, Pauline Lowbury, leader
||Morten Lauridsen: Lux aeterna
|Arr. Jonathan Quick
||O Musica Intima
||Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770 – 1820)
|Sonata No. 11 in B flat major, Op. 22▪ Allegro con brio
▪ Adagio con molto espressione
▪ Tempo di Menuetto
▪ Rondo. Allegretto
|Paul Lewis, piano
||Beethoven: #2 Paul Lewis
|U2, Arr. Chilcott
||On the Shoulders of Giants
The words and poetry interspersed between Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words are below. These are words from the community that Ron and Mary have been a part of.
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