[Bach autographed score facsimile]
There is so much power in sound! Music specifically. Depending on what you listen to it can be calming, uplifting or energizing. Or, it can have an opposite effect...so I try to choose well.
I was extremely tired yesterday afternoon during a relapse, but hoped for energy to attend a presentation, which my husband was teaching to some college students in a few hours. I wondered if I would have to miss it. Happily, I decided to play an old recording of a choir performance I sang in years ago with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (with soloists Thomas Quasthoff, Barbara Bonney, Angelika Kirchlager and John Mark Ainsley).
After an hour of playing it full blast while I rested on the couch (Bach's Mass in B minor), I felt much better. An hour of listening to exquisite, glorious music praising Jesus Christ to the rafters is no small gift. Plus, after all these years I realized that most of the words and music are still in me, which also cheered my soul. I attended my husband's terrific presentation and felt fine.
Familiar music for most people triggers memories. After listening to the recording yesterday I recalled several experiences. Our sixty-voice choir had to memorize the entire tome, as usual, which helped us all internalize the music and sing from the depths of our souls in Boston Symphony Hall. At the end of one of our performances ~ during the roaring 5 1/2 minute standing ovation (literally 5 1/2 minutes) ~ there was a middle aged man with wavy red hair weeping uncontrollably in the balcony just above me. I will never forget how
Another memory was when our town's local librarian told me several months later at Tanglewood, "You know, attending your performance of the B minor Mass last winter was the absolute highlight of my twenty years as a season subscriber". At a rehearsal Seiji Ozawa, our conductor, asked us and the orchestra to "lift the roof" off Symphony Hall each time we performed the "Sanctus" and something magical occured...it felt like it happened. Another memory? Receiving 40 single-spaced pages from Symphony hall in my mailbox containing countless markings that we each had to painstakingly transfer into our copies of the B minor Mass, measure by measure. Then, we had to memorize it all. It was worth it!
I'm very glad I chose to listen to this yesterday. I had forgotten how much this music had impacted me years earlier. I felt so much better after listening to it. It helps that Bach's Mass in B minor is widely regarded as being one of classical music's supreme achievements. "The Mass was announced in the 19th century by the editor Hans Georg Nägeli as "The Greatest Artwork of All Times and All People". Needless to say, music is even more powerful when you choose to listen to exceptional music.
[Updated video clip: Choir of the English Concert, Harry Bicket, conductor, Royal Albert Hall, London. 2 August 2012.]