Do you Believe in Magic?
[caption id="attachment_2956" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Four-year participants from the Stangeland Family Choral Academy enjoy the applause after their performance at the OBF patron dinner."][/caption]Do you believe in magic?
I do. There is in music that is well performed a special kind of magic. It can move us emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. It can make us laugh or cry. It can provide insight and understanding. It can even help healing.
The Oregon Bach Festival is over for another year. There was an eclectic mix of programs with something for everyone. The St. Mathew Passion was magnificent, the 5 Browns were entertaining, Garrison Keillor was humorous. There was Green Eggs and Ham for the children. Christa and I attended many of this year’s performances. For us the high points were the profoundly moving opening performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass and the chamber music series, particularly the Schubertiade, which was delightful.
The Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy performance given on July 3rd was, as always, extraordinarily special. In many ways the SFYCA typifies the magic of music and indeed epitomizes the underlying philosophy of the Oregon Bach Festival. About 80 young people of high school age are selected each year and work together for 12 days as an ensemble under the leadership of Anton Armstrong to give voice to some of the best music ever written. These are all very talented individuals, many of them excellent music soloists in their own right. Yet for 12 days they work together as a group, rather than as individuals, to create one superb voice. That is part of the magic of music. The work they do is grueling. They start at 8:30 in the morning and don’t stop, except to eat, until 9:30 at night, and yet they love it. That, also, is part of the magic of music.
For me the highlight of their presentation this year was the premier of “This House of Peace” a composition for chorus and soloist with words and music by Ralph M. Johnson. It was commissioned for the opening ceremony of the new Peace Health hospital building. The lyrics are a melding of actual words of Peace Health patients and their families alternated with verses of “A Gaelic House Blessing.” This poignantly beautiful work moved the audience to a standing ovation. The magic of music enhanced the words and imbued them with a depth of meaning not possible otherwise. It deeply touched those who heard it. In today’s world with so many people among us who are broken in body or mind or spirit, we need the understanding and the healing balm that this sort of music provides. This is, indeed, magic.
This essay originally appeared in the Cascade Manor Bulletin.