Personal Essays · Stories

Beauty has charms to save a savage world (with apologies to William Congreve and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn).

The invitation came in the mail a few weeks ago…a free Christmas concert on a Sunday afternoon at the funeral home where we had my dad’s wake back in February. I wasn’t too crazy about the whole idea, I must admit, but since my mom seemed set on going, I agreed to accompany her.

Well, we’ve just come back, and my spirit is singing. The performing choir was called L’art neuf, an ensemble of all ages, men and women, with a masterful blending of voices. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of sacred songs they offered, including several settings of Hodie Christus natus est;  Gabrieli’s O magnum mysteriumthe lilting, joyful, triumphant first movement of John Rutter’s Magnificat as well as the delicate and haunting second movement, Of a rose, a lovely rose.

The first Christmas without a loved one can be so difficult. What a brilliant idea to serenade the newly bereaved with beautiful music at this time of year…to sing of birth, and life, and hope, and joy, in a place normally reserved for death. It’s a reminder that nowhere on this earth does death have the last word.

Listening to the concert this afternoon, I realized that as a writer, I’ve come to believe that for every person, there is a special word out there which can move that person to change his or her life in some way, if read or heard at just the right moment. And I started to think that maybe there is also a note of music with the same kind of power for each person. Perhaps this is true of every form of art. Perhaps, in the babble of this confused and chaotic world, beauty is the only way we have left to communicate deeply with one another. Could this be what Solzhenitsyn meant when he said that beauty will save the world? What an awesome responsibility that places on artists…and a truly great privilege, to help people find that transforming beauty.

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