Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We approached the ancient walled-in city that was founded by monks in a valley of medieval seclusion. The road that winds there passes through thick forest and nods in the city's direction as you drive by. Fog clung and hovered while drizzly rain drenched and soaked. It was the night I would be in charge for the first time; in charge in a city where I have often found inner refuge.

The recital was to be Beethoven, Schumann, Prokofiev - among others - and the final parting of Romeo and Juliette in opus 75 seemed appropriate for such a day. I pulled the heavy doors open and let my eyes adjust to the great darkness.

It is a long walk down the stone aisle to the front of the church. Notes carried and flew above me, and all that is Christlike, all that is holy seemed to gather there. 

Hours later, connoisseurs of music, both passionate and passive, bought their tickets and took their seats. The church filled; the pianist waited - concentrated - in her green room for me to summon her. I watched as everything fell into place, eyes darting for loose ends that needed tying up; but as I stood quietly, pleased that nothing had fallen apart on my watch, two social workers with four intellectually disabled guests entered the foyer in wheelchairs and then turned to leave. A colleague approached:

"They didn't realize it wasn't free admission. But there is plenty of room and it's time to begin. We can let them stay, can't we?"

I scanned the room, wondering why this had suddenly become my decision, and then remembered whose cathedral it was. Holy music, indeed.

They pushed the chairs to the very front and lined them up as Varvara began playing her angelic songs. And all I could think as I sat two rows back was of the final banquet that had just begun.