If Mu­sic be the Food of Love

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION - Janet Ham­mock Janet Ham­mock is a con­cert pi­anist and Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of mu­sic at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity. She is a cer­ti­fied deep lis­ten­ing artist and teacher.

For a week fol­low­ing the celebration of the life and min­istry of El­don Hay, a piece of mu­sic per­formed dur­ing that cer­e­mony con­tin­ued to have a pro­found ef­fect on me.

Liebesleid – Love’s Sor­row by Fritz Kreisler was played at the be­gin­ning of the ser­vice by El­don’s daugh­ter, Heather Hay, on cello, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gayle h. Martin at the Univer­sity Chapel or­gan.

I have al­ways loved the play­ing of Fritz Kreisler, an Aus­tri­an­born vi­olin­ist who wrote and per­formed many beau­ti­ful short pieces. My mother was a big fan, and owned an al­bum of 78s of Kreisler him­self play­ing on his gor­geous Guarnari with pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment. His ro­man­tic style and gor­geous vi­brato im­bued the mu­sic with rich colour and vi­brancy.

Two of his com­po­si­tions which mum and I es­pe­cially loved were dances en­ti­tled Liebesfreud (Love’s Joy) and Liebesleid (Love’s Sor­row).

Af­ter the ser­vice, I found a great record­ing of Kreisler play­ing Liebesleid with a pi­anist on Youtube. His style was light, and al­though the feel­ing evoked was wist­ful, the piece moved along with the sprightly an­i­ma­tion of a Vi­en­nese dance. It was beau­ti­ful, but didn’t have the same ef­fect on me as Heather and Gayle’s per­for­mance for sev­eral pos­si­ble rea­sons.

The first had to do with the in­stru­men­ta­tion. What a dif­fer­ence the cello — a lower-pitched in­stru­ment than the vi­o­lin — and the pipe or­gan in­stead of the per­cus­sive pi­ano, made to the way the piece sounded.

Per­haps be­cause of the live acous­tics of the chapel and the con­tem­pla­tive na­ture of the ser­vice, the per­form­ers chose a slower tempo than Kreisler’s. This changed the char­ac­ter of mu­sic into a slow Vi­en­nese waltz. Heather’s deeply sonorous cello in­vited us to travel back in time to the golden age of mu­sic. The melodic line slowly rose and swirled, dip­ping in and out of ma­jor and mi­nor keys, just as the lilt­ing rhythm of the Vi­en­nese waltz rose and dipped in can­dlelit halls long ago. Gayle’s soft, full or­gan sound sur­rounded the cello with a golden aura.

The choice of in­stru­ments, the acous­tic prop­er­ties of the per­for­mance space, and the na­ture of the event it­self are all im­por­tant fac­tors in the way per­form­ers choose to in­ter­pret a mu­si­cal score.

The way we per­ceive mu­sic is also deeply in­flu­enced by the sur­round­ings.

While lis­ten­ing to Liebesleid, I could see the cof­fin on which was draped El­don’s sig­na­ture rain­bow cape, topped by his elo­quent Dr. Seuss rain­bow hat — iconic vest­ments of his life’s work as an ac­tivist and ad­vo­cate for full hu­man rights for all glbtq2 per­sons.

Other mean­ing­ful items were placed around the cof­fin. The trans­gen­der flag on the al­tar,

“I have al­ways loved the play­ing of Fritz Kreisler, an Aus­trian-born vi­olin­ist who wrote and per­formed many beau­ti­ful short pieces. My mother was a big fan, and owned an al­bum of 78s of Kreisler him­self play­ing on his gor­geous Guarnari with pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment. His ro­man­tic style and gor­geous vi­brato im­bued the mu­sic with rich colour and vi­brancy.”

still in the process of un­furl­ing — an elo­quent re­minder of the hard work still to be done be­fore trans per­sons will en­joy full equal rights.

The colour­ful PFLAG ban­ner, em­blem­atic of an or­ga­ni­za­tion which sup­ports glbtq2 per­sons and their fam­i­lies and in­tro­duced by El­don to Monc­ton and Amherst many years ago, was a pow­er­ful sym­bol for many at the ser­vice. A ban­ner dec­o­rat­ing the pul­pit was a mean­ing­ful per­sonal gift to El­don and his wife Anne dur­ing their re­cent trip to Cuba where they worked with op­pressed gay and les­bian youth.

On the vis­i­ta­tion an­nounce­ment card El­don was pho­tographed wear­ing his black fe­dora rem­i­nis­cent of the late Leonard Co­hen’s iconic fe­dora which he wore when singing.

Es­pe­cially mov­ing is Co­hen’s haunt­ing song Dance Me To The End Of Love, a slow dance with a sim­i­lar feel to the Liebesleid, in which Co­hen gath­ers his lis­ten­ers to­gether to dance the Dance of Life with him, the dance lead­ing to death and trans­fig­u­ra­tion.

At the celebration of El­don Hay ev­ery feel­ing, ev­ery thought, was deep­ened im­mea­sur­ably by the warmth and love with which the Liebesleid was of­fered.

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