September 26, 2020

Dear Sue, September 26, 2020

Dear Sue,

Your most recent letter (from Sept. 24) began with:

The world has changed since I last wrote to you. Who would have thought? Sigh.

That previous letter was only about two and a half weeks old and it's sad to realize that you could probably have written exactly the same thing if was only one week old.  Or one day.

While the world has always been in flux, we seem to live at a time when it seems to be fundamentally mutating every news cycle. Remember when the latest outrage was when we learned that he called those buried in military cemeteries in France "losers"? That was Sept 6. Remember when we learned that he'd been downplaying the severity of the virus all along? That was Sept. 10. Remember when we learned that the Senate would hypocrite itself on voting on a new Supreme Court justice? That was Sept. 19.

WTF will we learn next week? Judging from past experience, I can be sure of 2 things; 1) I have no idea what it'll be and 2) it won't be good.

Antney's will be closing for the season on Oct. 4. That's a day before my 57th birthday, by the way. In any event, the lovely wife and I have been, perhaps, over indulging there this summer. It's probably a rationalization but with all the ugly unleashed in the world, I'm thinking that a bit more comfort food when it's available is not the worst idea in the world. Self care with chocolate sprinkles.

My job at home gives me lots of time to listen to music and with the internet readily available on my phone I have the world's music at my fingertips. Most of the time, I just meander around the internet looking for good music. Recently, I discovered Caro Emerald from The Netherlands in a spotify mix devoted to The Good Lovelies. Some days it's soundtrack of Ken Burns' Country Music documentary. Some days it's just the BBC3. When I was there a few weeks ago, I stumbled across the beginning of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis and for some reason the sound pieces with chorus + orchestra got stuck in my head. That particular day, however, I had to jettison the Beethoven as I didn't have an hour and a half to devote to it.

The piece did lead me to thinking about Requiem Masses in general (a tad morbid, yes, but, given the recent COVID numbers, not surprising). The musical setting of the Proper of a Mass for the Dead goes back to at least the middle of the 15th century with Johannes Ockeghem's Requiem as the oldest known setting. The name "Requiem" comes from the first two words of the Latin prayer, "Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine" ("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord").

For all the famous Requiems (Requia?) that I know; Verdi, Mozart, and the above mentioned Ockeghem,  I have to admit I always circle back to two very different pieces; one by Gabriel Fauré and the other by Johannes Brahms, the Brahms being my favorite. Each in their own way diverge from the Roman Catholic text with Brahms abandoning it all together as he chose the text for his Requiem from the Lutheran Bible.

These days, the opening of the Brahms Requiem is particularly moving to me. The whole piece opens with this one line: 

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.

It's from the book of Matthew and it translates as "Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted." 

Devout atheist/agnostic that I am, none of the metaphysical elements of the piece are anything other than abstractions for me but that doesn't make it any less moving. Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Tomorrow, or perhaps next week, we'll be facing something entirely different.

With respect,