Sunday, October 3, 2010

The First Day of the Last...

Today is the First Day of the Last Year of My First Half Century.

And, it is Sunday. So I was in church. But not my own.

I spent this Sunday over at St. John's Presbyterian Church, on College Avenue in Berkeley. By invitation, I was singing a Jazz Mass, composed by Todd Jolly, the music director there. I've worked with Todd for several years now, while a member of the San Francisco Renaissance Voices, of which he is musical director. Today's service music was from Todd's Mazz, plus a few companion anthems that he also composed. This wonderful piece is somewhat of a precis of the history of jazz.

I had a great time! Can't think of a better way to spend the morning of my birthday! Doing something I had never done before. Todd had written the piece about ten years ago, and bits of it had been done, but not the piece in its entirety. So, this day was culmination for Todd and his work. And, there we were, jamming with a fabulous combo on the dais at St. John's, sharing in the gift of creation.

It was a full circle, with an awakening to something new.

I had lived in Elmwood during my childhood years. The church, new back then, was a community center for us; my Brownies and Girl Scouts troops met there. I went to Emerson School, up the street, and lived around the block on Derby. Years later, I would rehearse on Monday nights with the Pacific Mozart Ensemble. Today, things are much the same, though different and older, in this neighborhood. Yesterday, I had lunch at the Elmwood Cafe, with one of my colleagues, and was thrilled that the old fountain counter was still there, though they no longer serve up burgers and shakes, and though the Elmwood Pharmacy that the fountain had been a part of has been gone for the longest time. After lunch, I ambled up and down the street a bit. The boutiques were all buzzing with shoppers, and people were jay walking to get from here to there. There was the general bustle of life happening. That is the part that hasn't changed or aged.

Although I have sung some jazz before, and even jazz oratorios, I had never sung a complete jazz mass. I loved it. The experience was one of life happening.

I am no preacherwoman, but one non-scriptural line pops into my head that seems as perspicacious to theology as any text from the bible. This line is from Auntie Mame (the 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis). Mame Dennis says to Agnes Gooch:
Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!
This is it, isn't it? This is the essence. All the sages and prophets say this same thing, though differently. Life is already a banquet. Just wake up and be there, in the flow of things, where life is happening.

And that is what this morning was like for me, on the first morning of the last year of my first half century.

Awakening to something new.

Joining the feast.

Being where life is happening.


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