The spirit of this season often sneaks up on me and reveals itself in various, unexpected ways each year. Last Sunday, on a perfectly spontaneous whim, Pete and I attended an evening concert at Woolsey Hall at Yale University – part of a “Great Organ Music” series by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. The performer was Michel Bouvard, a professor of organ at the Paris Conservatory and a world-renowned organist who’s given more than 1,000 concerts in more than 25 countries.
It was our first time attending a pipe organ concert. Though we had seen the Newberry Memorial Organ at Yale before, neither of us knew much about it, or even that it was functional. You could walk into the hall and not even know that you were looking at a room-sized instrument, in fact, the 10th largest pipe organ in the world. All the pipes you can see there on the back wall are merely decorative. The 12,617 that actually make sound are behind them. Here is a little sample of what it sounds like.
That small area where the people are is where the organ is played using keyboards, pedals, switches and knobs. It was quite a sight to see Mr. Bouvard transform into a magisterial performer stretching arms, legs, and fingers every which way while churning out beautiful waves of musical poetry. The layers of symphonic sounds vibrated our eardrums and eyelashes, touched our synapses and hearts, and soothed us into a tactile peace.
Variations sur un Noël basque – was the third piece we heard. It was composed by Mr. Bouvard's late grandfather, Jean Bouvard. For an encore, Michel stood and told the audience, “I dedicate this short piece – also by my grandfather – to the victims of the terrorism in Paris, especially to the children. That they may have healing and love.”
In that moment, I felt overwhelmed by sadness, solace, empathy, hope, and love. His sentiments were poignant; and the music, even more. To think that Mr. Bouvard could dance his fingers across the bright notes that his grandfather left to him to share with us, was deeply moving. It left us stirred and grateful for this gift of generations flowing through us. And its powerful beauty triggered in me a memory of a passage I’d read years ago:
“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
– Kahlil Gibran
Each of us is a single note in a much bigger composition, humanity. As in music, we have transformative abilities when we harmonize with each other and resonate beyond ourselves. I am thankful for so much, and join you in a symphony of gratitude in this week of Thanksgiving.
With much love,