Last Saturday morning while I bustled with cleaning chores getting ready for a weekend visitor, I looked at the photograph of my mother posted on the refrigerator door and sighed: "I wish I could talk to you."
She's been long in the grave (almost 18 years) and I wondered if this same thought occurs to me every day.
That night at the Dumbarton Concerts the Tiffany Consort sang Angelo Cicolani's poem, "My Mother's Shadow (after Bach)":
My daily world goes on and on,
Yet special moments bring her close,
When joy or trouble make me wish
That we could talk.
It was the world premiere of the piece Mr. Cicolani commissioned Nicholas White, Tiffany's founder and director, to write, the third White composition directed by Mr. Cicolani.
The "Mother" selection came at the end of the evening's concert of an otherwise solemn presentation of mostly a cappella medieval and Renaissance music, most dedicated to the upcoming Holy Week. If anyone forgot it was Lent, the first part of the program was a stark reminder.
(For the concert, the darkened and historic (1850) Dumbarton United Methodist Church always makes a beautiful setting with window sills decked with lighted candles.)
The program led with another White compositions, "Kyrie (after Albinoni)": "A Lament for those who left this life too young," a tribute to Cicolani's college roommate which included "In the midst of life we are in death....deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death."
Eloquently accompanying the vocalists on "Kyrie" was cellist Benjamin Wensel. (Saturday's consort was composed of Steven Combs, sopranos Emily Noel and Laura Choi Stuart, tenor Matthew Hill, countertenor Roger Isaacs, and Mr. White. Was a singer or two missing?)
Music for Maundy Thursday included the somber "Lamentations of Jeremiah" (Part One) by Thomas Tallis (1505-1652) with these words:
[The city] weeps bitterly in the night, tears on her cheeks, among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her.
In case those words were too uplifting, ending the first half of the program was "Miserere mei" by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), originally intended for Renaissance monastic matins (after midnight) at the Sistine Chapel for Holy Week and included:
...cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my faults; and my sin is ever before me....Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds. Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
After intermission came the hymn, "Jesu, meine Freude" BWV 227 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), a motet which may have been written for a funeral. I counted seven movements over its 20 minutes (and understand I missed four), but the appreciative audience seemed to like it best of all.
Wensel followed with a much welcomed detour from verbal beatings with Bach's short solo "Sarabande" (Suite IV in E flat BWM 1010).
The best was saved for last. Cicolani described his motivation for the commissioning of "My Mother's Shadow" in the program: " ... to express a wistful lament for the loss of our mothers....we often wish to summon her shadow to seek her thoughts, or to share something special in our lives....This commission is dedicated to all those mothers who have left too soon, and I hope will speak to the people they leave behind."
In the program notes Composer White wrote he could not escape the knowledge that the day of the concert was the 330th anniversary of Bach's birthday (O.S. March 21, 1685) which laid the foundation for the music.
More from the poem:
She left so long ago,
Mourning's done, our lives apart,
Waiting near my wistful heart,
To share our thoughts.
Thoughts of mother etched in my soul,
Yet sadness comes not anymore.
I miss her presence every day,
Her shadow lives by me evermore.
Based on the audience's warm response to each piece and the standing ovation at the finish, the Georgetown crowd, with a few music critics, thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
A happy surprise at Dumbarton Concerts is the "Concert Cafe" (in the wine cellar) with spirits and desserts to savor before the concert and during intermission, highlighted last week by an art show of color photographs of the region, some so splendidly reproduced they looked like oils on canvas. The artist, Rob Rudick, was on hand to talk and answer questions.
With the lamentations behind us, it was time to walk the Georgetown streets and find joy among the people who, at that time of night, were celebratory and it is presumed, unmindful of self bashing.
"Sizzle" is the name of the last concert at Dumbarton this season,
which suggests an entirely different kind of music, more in tune with spring's colorful array to contrast with the dark and sad, long-lasting winter.
Who: Salome Chamber Orchestra
What: "Sizzle" at Dumbarton Concerts
When: 8 p.m., Saturday, April 11, 2015
Where: Historic Dumbarton Church, 3133 Dumbarton Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007
Admission: $35 and $30, seniors
Free limited parking: At Hyde Elementary School, 3219 O Street, NW a half block off Wisconsin Avenue where an attendant will direct you on the short walk to the concert hall.
For more information: 202-965-2000