Sunday, August 30, 2009

Heart song, hearts sing

I got caught up in watchng first, the memorial service for Ted Kennedy on Friday night and the funeral and graveside services on Saturday.

I never knew that he loved to sing, how much he loved singing. I loved how important singing was to everyone saying goodbye. That big Broadway star who sang "The Impossible Dream" on Friday night was impressive (though how his accompanist coped with 9/8 measures that felt more like 7.5/8 I don't know). But what I loved was Nick Littlefield, an attorney and Kennedy staff alum singing "a song for Teddy." The song was Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Love Changes Everything." Littlefield said he had often sung it with Ted, including the last time he had seen him. And that it seemed to sum up Kennedy's love for his wife, Vicky. Littlefield sang it confidently, joyously, forthrightly. He's a fine singer, not a pro, but one whose song is connected to his mind and heart. Watching and hearing him makes me so happy.

More singing: Placido Domingo at the funeral, making good choices with "Panus Angelicus." With just Yo Yo Ma accompanying, it was the lower end of his range, the firm, warm baritone, that made the most wonderful music. Susan Graham, was, of course, perfection. The Tanglewood Chorus singing Brahms "Let Nothing Ever Grieve Thee"--eh, it's harder to make music with that piece than one might think.

But again, what struck my heart was not the professional music makers. At the end of the service, the casket left the church to "America, the Beautiful." And the Kennedy family members who acted as pallbearers sang as they walked along side the casket.

Later at the capitol, the plan was for all the staffers on the steps to sing "America the Beautiful," led by a DC school choir director. The moment was less than wonderful, however, at least on television, because the microphone picked up only the director's voice--now crowd. But then--ah, in those last moments before the hearse pulled away, the crowd of citizens and tourists across the street sang--spontaneously--"God Bless America" and again, "America the Beautiful." As solemn a moment as you could hope to see, to sing.

No comments: