If Music be the Food of Love
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.