Last Concert of 2015

I sang my final concert of 2015 last night.

Last night’s concert was  bittersweet. It ends a year of major transition for me, personally, and I believe last weekend began a new transition for us all, globally. This global transition has changed every time I connect to the internet. As Thomas Paine observed centuries ago, “These are the days that try men’s souls.”

As I sat in my dressing room, there was a knock at my door and a dear friend appeared to be with me before the concert. He remarked about the very same things (both)  I previously mentioned and said there was a very interesting “look” happening for me last night.

“It’s as if there is darkness around you, but there is light inside. Chiaroscuro.”

I agree. (Side note – that made me think of The Grant and Durd. Had to completely redo my makeup.)

“See how there is just a small amount of shadow on the wall? That’s manageable. Easy to overcome with your smile.”

A little Swiss man, who would show up to hear me sing if I opened a grocery store, talked to me after the concert and said the same thing. He told me my smile after the last note, which was something I did quite purposely, made him feel like everything would be okay.

Light. We need light. I was given a Texas-size serving at birth.

(Your pictures are below. Thank you for being with me before that concert. You have remained one of my dearest friends throughout some times when the dark and the light weren’t in such great balance.)


There is a great deal of darkness around those of us who are trying to process the current events in a compassionate, concerned, humanitarian way. What do we do? How do we help? Also, how to we protect – ourselves, our children, and our future?

The answer is not to be found in contributing hate speech, bigotry, racism, or darkness. That is unproductive, unnecessary, and inhumane.  As history has shown us, hate feeds on such answers.

Thoughtful, well-educated, serious people sitting together and creating appropriate, targeted, short and  long-term solutions to the problems we face – that is a solution. Marrying prudence with compassion – that is a solution. When force is necessary, tempering such action with a strong eye on the innocents affected by such force and a plan to deal with their future, which we will directly effect. For every child with which I am concerned, there is an aunt/Godmother/LaLa version of me in Syria who is equally concerned with the child she loves.


Farewell to 2015 – what a wonderful year of some beautiful music. Jackson, I believe my favorite moment of the entire year happened at Transfiguration when we performed “Blackbird.”

Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem

I am thrilled to sing this great work again. The text is quite relevant, in light the current events we face. I hope each of you might find time to read it.

Better still, please listen to it. It will heal any sorrow or fear you have, if only for a moment.


Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
(Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, grant us peace.)

II. (Walt Whitman)

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through the doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field, or gathering in his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

III. Reconciliation (Walt Whitman)

Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly, softly,
wash again and ever again this soiled world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin – I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly wih my lips the white face in the coffin.

IV. Dirge for Two Veterans (Walt Whitman)

   The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking
Down a new-made double grave.

   Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

   I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding
As with voices and with tears.

   I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums
Strikes me through and through.

   For the son is brought with the father,
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans, son and father, dropped together,
And the double grave awaits them.

   Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

   In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumined,
’Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.

   O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

   The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

V. (John Bright)

The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land; you may almost hear the beating of his wings. There is no one as of old … to sprinkle with blood the lintel and the two side-posts of our doors, that he may spare and pass on.

Dona nobis pacem.

(Jeremiah 8:15-22)
We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!
The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan; the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing
of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land … and those that dwell therein …
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved …
Is there no balm in Gilead?; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter
of my people recovered?

VI. (Daniel 10:19)

O man greatly beloved, fear not, peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.

(Haggai 2:9)
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former … and in this place will I give peace.

(Adapted from Micah 4:3, Leviticus 26:6, Psalms 85:10 and 118:19, Isaiah 43:9 and 56:18-22, Luke 2:14)
Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
And none shall make them afraid, neither shall the sword go through their land.
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will go into them.
Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled;
and let them hear and say, it is the truth.
And it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues.
And they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them,
and they shall declare my glory among the nations.
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me,
so shall your seed and your name remain for ever.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.

Dona nobis pacem.

Why “Bach” is almost always the right answer

I recall a course, during my time at SMU, taught by David R. Davidson. At the end of “Choral Literature,”  I wrote my paper about the B Minor Mass, by Johann Sebastian Bach (listen to one of my favorite choral songs in the entire repertoire of choral music, “Sanctus” from the B Minor Mass).

The reason I did so was simple. After a mere two years of musical studies, I knew the following to be a universal truth:

“There are very few things about life that cannot find their answer within the music of Bach.”

Feeling as though the entire world is against you and there is simply nothing in the discography of Britney Spears that speaks to you? Listen to: “Herr, Unser Herrscher” from the St. John’s Passion. You don’t need to understand German. Just listen.

Feeling euphoric because the man you love just fell to one knee and it wasn’t because he dropped something? Listen to: “Magnificat” from the Magnificat. Bach will rejoice with you the way he rejoiced when his 20 children (yep, you read it correctly) were born.

Road rage a problem for ya? Listen to: “Sheep may safely graze” and try to imagine yourself away from the concrete and idiots and on a pasture somewhere.

Work conundrum or, ha ha, did your child ask you why “because” is a real answer? Listen to something you’ve heard a million times: “Air” from the Orchestral Suite #3. There is so much wisdom in this piece of music that we listen to, no, we CLING to it today.

In times of strife. In times of celebration. When we mourn, we reach for Bach to hold us in his arms. How many weddings have you attended and heard “Jesu, Joy of Man’s…” sorry, I feel asleep for a minute. No, seriously. It’s a beautiful piece (I still think “Laudamus Te” is much more exciting. I mean, GET INVOLVED!)

There’s nothing cliché about Bach and he’s not merely “old school.” There’s life and vitality and newness of vision. This man had triumphs and a strong faith, but he suffered during his lifetime. A lot. He lost his first wife. Those 20 kids? He lost 10 of them before they reached adulthood. He walked over 300 miles to attend school and he walked hundreds of miles to hear concerts (blisters much?). Bach was in the pokey! He lost his hearing and he lost his vision (the surgery to save the latter, ultimately killed him). Bach feels your pain. He gets you, Bro.

Spend 40 days or a month going through the Goldberg Variations. If you listen to the Brandenberg Concerti and you are not changed, I think you don’t need a better listening device, you need a pacemaker.

A music library without Bach is like Monet’s palette without the color yellow. Put a few pieces in your library and listen to them. Start now. Click on this ( and disappear for a moment.

Mahler’s 8th, Brahms’ Requiem, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, and my heart’s song—O Magnum Mysterium

Taking a break from the world for a moment and remembering easier days.

The Mahler 8 performance on my 21st birthday. The Brahms Requiem when Charlie was born. The first time I fell in love with MOH’s voice and the Biebl “Ave Maria.”

The HPPC tour (with Tracy’s folks) when we sang “O Magnum” at Canterbury Cathedral and my heart was too full to feel anything other than pure joy.

Listen. Be transformed.

Mahler 8 love

Alles Vergängliche

Ist nur ein Gleichnis;

Das Unzulängliche,

Hier wird’s Ereignis;

Das Unbeschreibliche.

Hier ist’s getan;

Das Ewig Weibliche

Zieht uns hinan

All that is transitory

Is but an image;

The inadequacy of earth

Finds here its fulfillment;

The inexpressible

Is given words here;

The eternal feminine

leads us upwards.

Brahms Requiem love

Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth!

Meine Seele verlanget und sehnet sich nach den Vorhöfen des Herrn;

mein Leib und Seele freuen sich in dem lebendigen Gott.

Wohl denen, die in deinem Hause wohnen, die loben dich immerdar.

How lovely are Thy dwelling places, O Lord of Hosts!

My soul longs and years for Your inner courts,

my body and soul rejoice in the living God.

Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, may they praise You forever.

My music family’s songs

Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria

Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium