Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial for Blanche Moyse

Last Saturday there was a memorial service for Blanche Moyse, the highly esteemed founder and director of the Blanche Moyse Chorale, in which I have been singing for tbe past 35 years. Blanche died earlier this year at the age of 101. A large group of former Chorale members returned to sing - 42 of us all told. It was a beautiful sound. I was asked to give the benediction, and here is what I said:

"In a few moments, the Chorale will be singing the final chorus from the St. John Passion: Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen gebeine - “rest well, you saintly bones.” I’m sure that at the end of a Bach Festival Season, after months of preparation and then a solid month of rehearsals and concerts involving smaller chamber groups as well as full orchestra and chorus, in a dozen or more venues all over the northeast, by the last Sunday evening after the final performance of the B-Minor Mass or one of the Passions, Blanche would be bone tired and welcome the chance to finally fall into bed and rest well. But I am also virtually certain that the next morning, or at least the morning after that, she rose ready and eager to get back to work, listening critically to concert tapes, beginning to study the score of the next project, perhaps playing her violin.

As much as Blanche was refreshed and renewed in her body by rest, as we all are, she was even more refreshed and renewed in her mind and spirit by her work. She loved her work. There is a beautiful text from Rev. 14:13, which has been set to music many times. The Chorale sang just last week a beautiful setting of these words by Heinrich Sch├╝tz: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” Blanche rests from her labors, yes, but it is also profoundly true, I believe, that her works do follow her. They follow her here on earth – they follow her in the lives and performances of countless musicians whose music-making she shaped and enriched; they follow her in the remarkable concentration of women choral conductors in this community which she role-modeled; they follow her in the memory of thousands of listeners who were present at unforgettable performances of the St. Matthew Passion or other works of Bach; they follow her in the lives of thousands of students brought to the love of music through the BMC’s School of Music; they follow her in the Concert Choir and Chorale which seek to continue to honor her vision and standard of excellence through their singing.

But I believe they follow her into heaven as well. Here is the heaven I wish and imagine for Blanche. Jesus said, “In my father’s house are many mansions, many rooms.” I imagine a room where she has met J.S. Bach, and she is playing the violin in his little chamber orchestra, finally performing all the hundreds of Cantatas that have been lost on earth but saved in heaven, plus the St. Mark and St. Luke Passions. After getting to know her, Bach asks her to lead a small chorus and chamber orchestra. The singers and instrumentalists are not perfect. I believe that heaven is not only for the perfect. No, these musicians want to play and sing well, but they need Blanche’s direction and vision and meticulous coaching and drilling. And of course, because it is heaven, there will be unlimited time for that. That, indeed, is what will make it heaven for Blanche: having unlimited time to do the work she loves to do with musicians who love doing it with her. Eternity will not be daunting to her. She can fill an eternity with her passion for the glorious work of making beautiful music.

Her works do follow her. And of course, what I imagine her doing in heaven is just what she attempted to do right here in Brattleboro. Those of us who were privileged to work with her, or to share in one of the glorious concerts she led, were experiencing a bit of heaven on earth. We may not have fully realized it at the time, but it is so. And for that we are deeply grateful. We bless you Blanche. May your works follow you here on earth among us as long as we live; and may they follow you in heaven for all eternity."

No comments:

Post a Comment