Many musicians worked late last night, on Christmas Eve, myself included. I performed a church gig which featured various combinations of chorus, orchestra and organ in works by Handel, Rutter, Bach, Holst, traditional carols, and Gregorian chants. Although quite interesting, the program was not particularly bassoon oriented, so I was afforded the opportunity to just listen rather than having to worry about mastering my instrument.
A year ago I played the same Christmas Eve gig, and at the beginning of tonight's program I began having flashbacks to a year ago. My sister had been very much on my mind last year, and I remembered texting photos of the beautifully decorated church to her last Christmas Eve.
The organ in the church is one which has the ability to shake the earth - that's how powerful it is. The very talented organist performed Weihnachten, Op. 145., No. 3 by Max Reger (for solo organ) both years. During the Reger, the lights were turned off, leaving the huge church in total darkness. This year when the Reger began, I flashbacked again to a year ago. I hadn't known that it was my sister's last Christmas, because her cancer was in remission. The piece is spooky and ominous-sounding, and last night something happened as the tremendous crescendo built up. I was completely overtaken by the music, in an indescribable way which seemed to somehow involve my sister.
When she died this past fall, I didn't talk about it or even mention it to many people. I left Columbus to attend her funeral, but hardly anyone knew. A friend suggested that maybe I should write about it on this blog, and discuss what it's like to go on with business as usual at a time like this. But I couldn't. In order to keep playing the bassoon and functioning, I had to NOT think about it. There were times when the music we were rehearsing or performing would make me think of her, but in order to function as a bassoon player I had to push those thoughts away and be very businesslike.
Last night was different, though. The lights were off, nobody could see me crying, and I wasn't even playing during that portion of the service. It was the perfect opportunity to allow the music to take effect. My guess is that every person in that church was deeply affected by the organist's performance of the Reger Weihnachten, but each of us had a different issue or perspective which responded. The music performed its therapy on whatever ailed each one of us.
When I left the church last night, I could tell that I had been internally re-arranged during the Reger Weihnachten. And to think, I was paid to be there.