Even the least devout OSU and Corvallis students (and several teachers, to be honest) fervently prayed for a snow day on Friday only to receive a mere dusting. Perhaps the answers to their prayers were just slightly delayed? After waking up to fat white flakes frosting our rooftops, yards, and cars this morning, I couldn’t resist playing “Winter Wonderland” as a tongue-in-cheek beginning to the prelude!
The other pieces used for today’s preludes were Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and “Lost in the Darkness” from Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll and Hyde”. I have always been fascinated by the opening lyrics of the folk hit: “Hello darkness, my old friend”. I don’t believe I can be the only one who is affected by these words; they seem to be the most easily recalled text for everyone ranging from those barely acquainted with this song to diehard Simon and Garfunkel fans. The darkness of which Simon sings of isn’t quite as philosophical as one might guess: interviews have revealed that he was referring to practicing and composing in the dark stillness of his bathroom, a place that provided both the quiet and light reverb (due to the bathroom’s tiled surface) that allows him to really hear himself. On the other hand, “Lost in the Darkness” from the 1997 musical “Jekyll and Hyde”, presents Dr. Henry Jekyll singing of the endless night that we sometimes reside in – and that resides in us. We all have our own Mr. Hyde inside of us in many guises, and we share a common struggle to overcome the darkness within. The beauty of both songs is that the lyrics’ meanings can fit everyone’s individual needs – the interpretation is up to us.
We sang an old UUFC favorite as a response to today’s joys and sorrows, Nada te turbe (translation: “nothing can trouble”). For song lyrics so filled with hope, the lovely but melancholy musical setting belies its positive message:
Minor keys don’t necessarily mean a piece of music is sad, nor do major keys give a piece of music a happy meaning, but since today’s theme was rooted so deeply in duality (darkness and light), I added a Picardy third to the final chord; this means raising the third scale degree of a final minor scale/chord to change it to a startling major chord. The picardy third has been used throughout history to change the harmonic resolution of a piece, symbolize hope, or even satirize the cliche of a final chord of hope. In this case, it was meant simply to provide contrast between the two modes to fit with the chiaroscuro theme that was so prevalent in today’s service.
Some fellowship members may remember that in 2012, shortly before my first Christmas at the UUFC, I had to suddenly leave town when my mother was found motionless in the parking lot of the elementary school where she worked. She wasn’t breathing and it wasn’t clear how long she had been lying in the snow, so she was airlifted to Spokane’s Sacred Heart hospital and placed in a medically-induced coma for several days. When she woke up, she was disoriented, afraid, and unable to speak. One of the few things that had a soothing effect on her was listening to Debussy’s Clair de Lune on repeat; it had been one of her favorites when I was learning it as a young piano student and I can never play this piece without thinking of the calm that stole over my mother’s face whenever the music began. Translating to “the light of the moon”, Clair de Lune’s crystalline tranquility brings peace to the most troubled hearts and minds. The notes wash over the listener much like the oil paints used in most impressionist paintings, and the way that Debussy employs both rich chromatic harmonies and transparent texture to depict light makes the parallel between Impressionism in visual arts and music quite clear.
Rev. Dr. Pittman McGehee began his sermon by outlining some Jungian ideas, but soon moved to more spiritual matters. “God is not a concept,” he said, “but an experience.” Rev. Dr. McGehee expressed his belief that the most most undervalued virtue in today’s society is friendship. The kindness and compassion we exhibit can help us in so many aspects of our lives, but the sacred and divine energy within us – empathy, warmth, and understanding – needs to extend to ourselves as well as those around us. Self-compassion is the best way to deal with our dark sides. As we so often hear, all you need is love.
To bring the morning to a close, I thought it would be fun to play “Light of the World” from Stephen Schwartz’s “Godspell”. So many of the lyrics from this upbeat song were companions to today’s message:
And what a pleasant surprise to hear Kyle Jansson (UUFC past-President/Board of Trustees Chair) repeat “Let’s have some fun!” during his announcements; my mind automatically replaced the original lyrics “Let’s have some wine!” with his words as I played the postlude.