Thank goodness for music

Every once in a while, life gets hectic/stressful/overwhelming/whatevertermworksbestforyou. I know that for me, these past six months months have been particularly challenging for one reason or another. I also know that, for me, one of the salves I turn to with regularity is music. (And wine. But today I'm going to talk about music.)

I was reminded of music's power to soothe this past weekend at a concert given by the Penthelia Singers. Full disclosure - my wife sings with Penthelia, and has done so for the past few years. Sunday's concert featured the music of Broadway, from the standards of the classic musicals to the tunes written for more contemporary theatre. Jeanette's participation in the choir, and my being in the audience, was no particularly small feat, as other parents of toddlers can surely understand: schedules had to be aligned and childcare had to be found, never mind the time and energy required to prepare for and attend rehearsals. So it's fair to say that we were both a bit frazzled by concert time.

But then, in the middle of their first half, something amazing happened. The choir performed an a cappella arrangement of "For Good" from the recent Broadway smash Wicked. And all the stress, and anxiety, and frazzlement (now a word, says I) melted away.

I'm not sure what it was exactly that hit me. The choir certainly performed the piece (and the concert on the whole) very well; it's a well-written arrangement and the choristers made it sound excellent. But I think it was more than that - an appreciation for the beauty of that particular piece of music, and a reminder that in a sometimes hectic world, there is beauty in music.

I guess that might sound a bit cheesy. But I'm not sure how else to describe it. This past Monday night, I was at the Canadian Music Centre for a party celebrating the 90th birthday of Phil Nimmons. Phil was in attendance and made some wonderful remarks. For such an accomplished and respected musician he is incredibly humble and thankful for all he has achieved. And then he and David Braid sat and played. And for 15 minutes, they allowed the music to take them on a journey. Nothing was planned - this was completely improvised. There were moments of cacophony, moments of joy, moments of sadness, moments of introspection and moments of absolute, pure beauty.

I think, ultimately, this musical balm is why I do what I do - in my jobs at the festival and Continuum; as a trumpet player; as a big band leader; as a (sometimes) composer. Often, it all drives me a bit batty (ask Jeanette). But the reward - seeing the festival through from idea to performance; seeing a concert through from first rehearsal to final note; seeing a composition through from notes on a keyboard to notes on the bandstand - is beautiful.

And so I say - thank goodness for music.


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