Musical conversations

See the poster:  La Rinuncia_Fin

” IN SWEET SURRENDER” is under way. Join us on September 20!


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A worship service followed yesterday’s rehearsal for In Sweet Surrender at the Church of the Holy Comforter.  As I sat on the step waiting for a ride, the church music director, Martha Burford, joined me. We talked about how music brings people together. Sometimes  music only comforts the tribe, but left on its own, music  even brings tribes together. My musical education consists of such conversations. When I was nine, Lois Bell told me that music was the universal language. About the same time, George Sakalas took our accordion band to play for the inmates of an asylum in Dayton. They actually wanted to hear us try to speak this language. I even played my own composition, a 12 measure polka. Without encouraging listeners like my mother and Aunt Monte, I never would have learned the language of music. Miss Bradflute introduced me to opera and put me on a stage. Mr. Smeltzer encouraged me to sing. Years later, in the Warrenton Chorale, Barbara Stinson showed how to bring a whole community together in song. The Missa brevis, part of Sweet Surrender, was first performed by the Warrenton Chorale, accompanied by organist Isabelle Jones. Isabelle once told me that for her a performance was simply another rehearsal. As you may have learned from my previous blogs, this insight began a life-long meditation for me on rehearsal as a life-practice.  And many late night conversations over tea with Martin Berkofsky convinced me, if I needed any more persuasion, that music is not only a language but a culture.  Martin repeatedly recovered from life-threatening injuries and disease with undiminished resolve to continue giving concerts to help those in need–whether they were cancer victims or a “disappeared” Central-European musician . He grasped the gift at the heart of music. Like prayer, it is not a twist inwards but a push outwards. Even with a busy concert schedule he encouraged my composition of Amber and The People’s Voice  and attended the concerts. Following his example, all of my concerts are charity benefits. The great river of musical culture, diverted into streams and runnels, monetized and branded as a commodity sold in digital packages, is too powerful a flood to be contained.

As Martha, Lois, George, Barbara, Isabelle, and Martin taught me, the wordless conversations of music can make peace, build community, and evoke life-fostering engagement. They can open hearts. As philosopher Alain put it,

“There is a way of singing which shows that one is not afraid and which reassures the world of men.”

More information:

About Martha Burford

Have a look at what Martha has to say about our tribal comfort zones.

About Barbara Stinson

About Martin Berkofsky

About my recent YouTube promotion for FRAMESHIFTS:

Works cited in this promotion: Frameshifts, Stephen Dinan’s Shift Network and Radical Spirit, Roger Butterfield’s comments (1983) on folk art, Aldo Leopold’s comments on not losing the pieces as we tinker with nature, Oliver Goldsmith’s Deserted Village about the early effects of industrialism, Aeschylus on wisdom, Rousseau on kindness,  Einstein on compassion. And this, from Adam Miciewicz, if you need a rationale for sharing, giving, and service: “The nectar of life is sweet only when shared.”

About Alain: See Le propos sur le bonheur by Emile Chartier (aka Alain), in which he suggests that humans must avoid two kinds of madness–believing that they can do everything and believing that they can do nothing.