Kyrie eleison: Lord, have mercy. Now, there’s quite a few ways that simple phrase, translated into English can be interpreted. I’m going to leave that up to whoever is going to be reading this.
The Mass in B Minor has been touted as the greatest choral work of all time. To start this year, I had never been acquainted with it before. I had known the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Baroque era was always a “guilty” pleasure of mine in the classical music world. However, the minute we started learning “Gratias Agimus Tibi”, something told me that there would be an ensuing love-hate relationship with the massive work. For once, my intuition was correct, and the love-hate would grow and become conflicting to its very core. I was learning not only my voice part, but the keyboard continuo, a violin part, the harmonic structure, how to conduct portions of it, stylistic choices for this kind of music. It satisfied every nerd tendency in my character, and it was glorious; it also challenged me to the point of frustration nearly every day.
Then the performance came, and my goodness was it monumental. Seeing my friends, professors, guest artists, and alumni coming back for this occasion warmed my heart. The music itself was amazing. Every solo, every line, every idea coming to life. It was everything, yet it was all one. Faster than I wanted it to, it ended.
This particular academic year has been a very challenging one, in all aspects of life. It began in a bizarre fashion (as you read from last summer), and then it grew into a joy. Working with the Marching 110 as a manager has been one of the best social and observational choices I have ever made, and I don’t regret it for one second. The dedication, the many different pieces of it all…coming together as one. It is poetry in motion to me, for there is simplicity, complexity, elegance, strength, all coming together to create “The Most Exciting Band in the Land”. At the same time, I was making adjustments to new piano and voice teachers and continued to make music with my brothers in song, the Singing Men of Ohio. I also maintained a position as a music director at the First United Methodist Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Then winter happened. The Bach kept getting more complex, the music in SMO kept piling up, I made the decision to perform a recital in the spring. My classes, which on the surface looked easier, presented intense new challenges. Social situations around me grew and suspended like the painfully expressive dissonances of “Qui tollis peccata mundi“. Physically and emotionally, I felt beat up; always tired, always sick, always kind of doing my own thing. My saving grace, without a doubt, was the Spring Break Tour. But it was still more chaos, more individual lines floating around seemingly without logic.
Spring, contrary to most people, can turn into the most difficult quarter of school. If one doesn’t take the time to reset or center themselves before getting into it, spring becomes a trap. I found that one out the hard way. There was plenty of motivation: the Threepenny Opera, the Acappella Invitational my recital, auditions for the OVST show and the School of Theatre/School of Music production in fall semester, and of course the dreaded Mass in B Minor. There was, again, more classes (Classical Mythology, fyi, is even more difficult when there are distractions and allergy problems) and more social situations.
However, I took some time to myself after having a really good talk with one of my great friends, ZH (he can guess who he is). I searched through my closet and I find a book on counterpoint, which is what makes Bach sound like Bach (not going to get into the description of what, how, etc.). I read the introduction, and one of the sentences gets this point across: counterpoint is the study of how to make many lines and melodies function as one unit of harmony.
Of course life epiphanies can be found while reading a book on 18th century counterpoint. And go figure that the Mass in B Minor taught me a life lesson.
Much like the choir and orchestra on stage yesterday, and the massive collection of notes they played for nearly 3 hours, every event in life seems to be independent yet completely dependent on each other. So what does this mean for me? Well, it’s almost as if the B Minor Mass paralleled my life, and now I am left with a triumphant conclusion (and like the work itself, parts of this lesson that were discovered this year probably happened earlier on, but putting it all together now makes a much better picture).
And now, I leave you all with this triumphant conclusion: “Dona nobis pacem” from the B Minor Mass.
Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone! To all of my friends at OU, we’re almost at the end!