A week ago yesterday we were saying goodbye to my Dad in a final service for him in Wisconsin. He had a beautiful life - 93 years. But, I will miss him for the rest of my life... his kindness, gentleness, generosity, humor, wisdom, and passion for doing the right thing. These are just some of the things he has left with us, and I am so grateful for that legacy. At the service, I played two very different pieces - one fairly upbeat, and the other mournful. The first was a Celtic medley I arranged based on "Amazing Grace," including some of his favorite Scots songs. The second was by the wonderful composer Paul Schoenfield, who I had met in 1986. The piece I played, "Achat Shaalti," the 2nd movement from Six Improvisations on Hassidic Melodies, is both mournful and peaceful, at the same time. The title comes from Bible Psalm 27: "One thing I ask from the Lord, one thing I desire - that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of the Lord and to meditate in his temple."
To say that music helps us in dealing with and healing our grief sounds so obvious and almost silly - but the truth is that it is one of the greatest tools that has ever been given to us for healing and reflection- a kaleidoscope of forgiveness, patience, non-judgement, warmth, and all-embracing comfort. It is whatever we need at the time to encourage our feelings - whether deep dark despair, bright hope, or bittersweet reminiscence.
Recently, I read a powerful memoir by an author who said that when she was in the throws of addiction, she absolutely could not tolerate listening to music because it made her 'remember her heart' and feel her aloneness so acutely that she simply could not stand it. But as she was returning to her life and health, and in this process of putting her world back together, music now gave her immense comfort and connection with her feelings. I had never imagined anyone feeling like music wasn't their best friend or companion - a necessary and saving grace always; I was horrified by the bleakness of a world or a life without music....where would we be without it? I'm sure you have your own unique answer to that.
I would like you to have a recording I made of the Schoenfield piece, and I hope that it speaks to you. Even though I have played this piece many times, both at concerts and funerals, the only recording I have is from way back in 2001 (I play this piece at a slower tempo by choice, these days!). You can find it at the top of my Sound Cloud page, along with some other music I recorded with my dear friend - the late, great tenor Richard Heard, who we also mourn this year.