So I’m at the Conducting Institute at Westminster Choir College. An hour of wonderful, relaxed vocalizing began the day, and then we started to sing through repertoire. A rainy Monday morning. Green summer, growing things, richness in the air.
The first piece of music—something simple: “Homeward Bound,” words and music by Marta Keen, arranged by Mack Wilberg. The text:
In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed, When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red, When the summer’s ceased its gleaming, when the corn is past its prime, When adventure’s lost its meaning I’ll be homeward bound in time. Bind me not to the pasture; Chain me not to the plow Set me free to find my calling And I’ll return to you somehow. If you find it’s me you’re missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return, To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning . . .Somewhere right about there I quit singing. An hour of playful vocalizing before the sightreading had left my throat, as singers say, open. So the tears could pour in, then rise to my eyes and stream down my face, as the music continued:
...in the road I’ll stop and turn. Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again.It was Lon, my sainted husband, just there somehow on his own path. And it was children leaving home.
How does music do that? And so quickly, so effortlessly?
I cried like that once years ago, when Lon was lost in dementia and my life was constant stress. I went to yoga class, and lying on the mat, in those minutes of pre-class quiet, I let go and the tears ran down from the corners of my eyes, across my cheekbones, and, unpoetically, into my ears. No sobbing, no catching of the breath. And I couldn’t stop.
This morning I tried to get back into the music in order to stop crying, but it wasn’t going to happen. I could not govern my throat until we moved on to another piece of music.
Grief stays inside you, is you, is part of you for a long, long time. The waves of loss rise when their overtones sound. Like music.