Turns out that an Orff Conference is a good place to heal. A rich day, beginning with the great honor of giving the Keynote speech at the Carl Orff Canada National Conference. Talking about music’s impact on all people at all ages, I shared slides and videos of granddaughter Zadie and my Mom. A risk to mention my mother's recent passing and play one more piano piece for her in front of 300 people, but I managed it without breaking down. And after, so many folks who came to me to share their own stories. Everyone has one— or will soon— and it’s rare in our “have a nice day” cultures that permission is given to attend to these profound rites of passage. And yet somehow important, don’t you think?
From there, went to a lovely workshop by choral leader Brian Tate and wouldn’t you know that one of the songs we sang was “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” Yes, indeed. Then performed with the African music ensemble that I worked with yesterday, 50 kids playing with great feeling and rhythmic precision the Ghanaian Kpanlogo, led by their lovely Ghanaian teacher Toria Adoo and supported by the great “Papa” Kwasi Dunyo. 50 kids in Nova Scotia— who would have imagined? I taught them Juba yesterday and that was a joyful part of the performance. And back in the world of playing music with kids and those little moments of catching each other’s eyes and smiling and the instant connection I feel with them. And their heartfelt thank you’s at the end. Beautiful.
Then my own workshop, making a church out of a hotel conference room with the sublime sounds of “Rain Rain Go Away” for voice and Orff instruments. So simple, so elemental, so exquisite, especially with the high, high level of Canadian singing. Off to dinner with friends— I had forgotten how many folks I know in Canada! Fish and chips at a restaurant looking over the water and then a concert of three groups in one of the continent’s oldest churches. Music, music and more music to help me cross over into this next phase of life. Such a blessing.
And yet another one from distant friend Marcia Barham who shared an extraordinary poem by John O’Donahue, with these extraordinary lines:
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
There are many ways to talk about the perpetual presence of the departed, but the notion of “learning acquaintance with their invisible form” and “weaning your eyes from that gap in the air” is indeed the work ahead. I first had to learn it with my mentor Avon Gillespie 25 years ago and then my Dad 7 years ago and of course, many more at all levels of relationship. It seems you can’t just learn this in a sweeping general way, but need to go through it anew with each person who passes to the other side.
Another day of joyful music and dance awaits and I move into it with open arms.