As Our Election Day Creeps Closer... by Thomas Putnam
Perhaps like me you are being inundated with political urgings via the USPost and emails and recorded phone calls. Perhaps like me you might be resisting urgings of frustration and despair and sometimes fear. Perhaps like me you are reminded or need to be reminded of the transformative power of art. I'm talking specifically of theatre and poetry and choral music. Perhaps I list these three forms of art since they are the ones with which I most often and intimately engage.
I'm concerned about the election and the future of democracy. I try to understand the political views of those with whom I do not agree, and I find myself grieved by the deep and what seems to me unreasonable polarity that exists in political thought.
As my despair and concern deepens, I'm finding my solace and nourishment from the arts becomes deeper still. Last week I finished a production of Grand Horizons. The experience of working with a wonderful group of talented committed people who are eager to offer a fine play for entertainment and thought is enriching and empowering. Add to that the meaningful discussion both before and after each performance and the edification becomes even greater.
Last week, too, I saw an incredible performance in Rochester of the play Somewhere. I won't go into the topic or themes, but the art of those two hours, and the experience of sitting with 300 other audience members all sharing that art, was enriching and empowering.
This past Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct the HG Children and Youth Choirs in the annual Autumn Chorale. We're down in numbers with the choirs, but the pure joy and dedication of these young singers is powerful. I don't think it would matter what they were singing, but in this case many of the songs were thought provoking and rich and harmonious and wonderful.
During the concert I shared a poem by Robert Frost, a familiar one that I've known for decades. It wends its way through my soul every fall and a clarity and assurance seems to settle in. There are a few other poems that seem to take up annual residence that are like old friends. During the concert Jessica Strouse sang a musical setting of another Frost poem that is an old friend. It was like seeing an old friend for the first time, in a new 'certain slant of light.'
I've been choosing repertoire for our spring concerts, including the MLK concert in January. I have discovered a few new pieces that are delighting me; first in the discovery, and then in the becoming more and more acquainted, and now in the anticipation of introducing them to the singers, and then in the anticipation of what it will be like when they perform these. The art of the composer, and the art of the poet, and the art of the merging of these creations is...yes, I'll repeat this again (and again and again)...enriching and empowering.
May I encourage you in these few days before the election, and in these days that you are going through whatever challenges you may be facing, to visit those old friends of music and poetry and theatre. Engage and let these old—and new—friends take up residence for as long as they'd like to stay.