Duff ’n Stuff, Dec. 18, 2012
My heart was heavy with sadness this weekend, as I grieved with the rest of the world following the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Conn. on Friday.
I listened on Sunday as President Obama told the nation, “We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.”
And I cried uncontrolled tears as he recited, with great reverence, the names of the children who were slain.
“Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dillon, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison.”
All over Facebook, friends have been expressing everything from anger and frustration from such a senseless, horrific and preventable event, to an absolute dedication to sending out messages of love and peace, perhaps to counteract the negativity and find some semblance of light with which to offer the world in counterbalance to such darkness.
This being the holiday season, it’s hard to be jolly after such news. But then, opportunities abound during this time of year when the Winter Solstice is upon us and when the message of “Peace on Earth” becomes more than just a line on a card; it becomes the first message, the main message, the message we hold in our hearts for places like Newtown.
The season, too, offers up myriad opportunities for celebration and I found the island a great source of comfort these past few days, and although it was not possible to attend all the shows and events I would have liked to attend, I’m so very glad for the rich artistic life that surrounds me here.
On Friday, I saw the result of 20 years of children and families growing up together on the Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s “Nutcracker” stage, with several young men and women who were once Claras or bumble bees, mice or soldiers, now accomplished young dancers, some professional, who were joined by new, up-and-coming dancers, and longtime neighbors. It was a production that had both the familiar and the traditional, revived by both new faces and new choreography. It made my companions, soon to be 5-year-old Ava and 2-year-old Emilia, rejoice out loud and clap their hands and I felt lucky to be there with them.
On Saturday, Jim and I, along with an overflow crowd, were serenaded by singer Joni Takanikos and pianist Robert Marsanyi at the Ott and Murphy Tasting Room cabaret in Langley. Joni sang the American Jazz Standards including “You’ve Changed,” “God Bless the Child” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” among others. Special guest Nancy Nolan played and sang a beautiful rendition of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” and it made me realize that these great, classic songs should be heard by all of us at least once, but much more if possible, because they are great, exquisite, wonderful songs and they make you feel better, even when you are carrying around a deep sadness.
On Sunday, I went to the Langley United Methodist Church, where the sanctuary was filled with angelic sounding voices of the church’s Chancel Choir under the direction of Bill Humphreys and the voices of the Whidbey Chamber Singers, directed by Robert Prosch. My mind, of course, still lingered with the dead and their grieving families in Newtown, but the singing was important because, like the ballet to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music, and the great songs of Porter, Holiday and Herzog, and Woods, the choral music gave me something back that had been taken away by the news of the tragedy. And when I heard all those voices and instrumentalists playing and singing up there on the stage such beautiful songs as “The Eyes of All Wait Upon Thee, “Advent Hope,” “Serenity” and “Gloria” among other pieces, I realized sitting there again surrounded by my community, that art is kind of balm we all need. Art, in all its forms, never fails to bring me some special nourishment of beauty and light and hope.
From the heart,