“…and draw her home with music.” ~ Merchant of Venice, Scene V, Act I
It is said that we don’t remember days, we remember moments in life. That is probably true for most of us. For me, some of the best moments have involved listening to music.
Several years ago I wrote of coming home from the grocery store to find my husband Tom and son William sitting in the family room in the dark. Out of the stereo speakers came music that drew me in immediately. The grocery bags were quietly lowered to the floor, and I joined them in the dark for moments I will never forget.
They were listening to the last movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony, a piece of music so shimmering in its beauty that it reminds me of seeing a priceless gem turning slowly around on black velvet, the light picking up each different facet of the gem as it revolves. Somewhere in that music all the joy and pain of life are encapsulated, crystallized into one glittering half hour. You cannot listen to this music without shutting out distractions. It commands your full attention.
William was around 10 at the time, but he never moved as he sat with us in the dark. Those moments are sealed in my memory for always.
Years before that, on a gray, bitterly cold, Sunday afternoon, I made my way through the slushy, icy streets on the east side of Milwaukee to St. Paul’s Church. The church was chilly and the lighting was very low. I sat in the bleak sanctuary, hunkered down in my coat , waiting for a choir concert to begin.
Out of the chilly darkness of that church suddenly came a burst of sound. A brass group played the opening lines of John Rutter’s, Gloria! (Click here to hear Gloria! yourself.) Leading the trumpets was my Tom that day (we were not yet married.) Walking back through the slush and snow to my car, arm wrapped in his, I was warmed by the sound of Gloria! Eighteen years later, I am still warmed by those memories.
Last January, I sat at Church of the Gesu in downtown Milwaukee, once again waiting for a concert to begin. It was surreal for me. Only a few months earlier, our son Will had begun organ lessons after years of piano study. At his insistent request, I had located an organ teacher, and he took to the instrument immediately. So our organ fledgling was suddenly sitting at a newly refurbished Schantz monster of a pipe organ. For 30 years, Tom had played for weddings and concerts with the organist there. From babyhood, Will had accompanied him, taking it all in. To have Will so unexpectedly playing that instrument with his father was a real musical moment, to put it mildly. When they played the Manz Aria together, the tears spilled over a bit. That lovely piece was on a cassette that I had worn out years earlier, something Tom had given me when we first got to know each other. It hit me that here was Tom’s son playing that brooding, sad and sweet-at-the-same-time, piece of music, his Dad’s solo trumpet voice over the top. Unforgettable.
There are many other musical moments I cherish: Hearing trumpet legend Bud Herseth play the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Orchestra Hall in Chicago (the old, historic one before they remodeled it), hearing the amazing Frank Almond play the newly rediscovered Lapinski Stradivarius violin in a small chamber setting, (see a clip of the recital here), and sitting near the stage and hearing Marilyn Horne sing Shall We Gather at the River leaving not a dry eye in the house. Those are just a few.
Everyone has moments in time that are sealed forever in the vault of their minds. Good memories are stored along with the bad. But the moments I retain will always and forever be wrapped in the strains of music.