A few weeks ago, staff and friends of the Vancouver Recital Society got together for our very first Annual Chrismakkuh Celebration Dinner! We are a typically Canadian mix of Christians, Jews, Atheists, and (as I like to describe myself) a lapsed Buddhist, so we seized on The OC‘s Chrismakkuh as our kind of Holiday!
We gathered soon after Nelson Mandela died, and Leila Getz, our Artistic Director, had just found out her piano teacher in South Africa literally played host to Mandela for many of his organizing meetings. I say literally ‘played’ host, because whenever Mandela was in his house meeting others, Leila’s teacher would play the piano as loud as possible to thwart security forces from listening in.
Leila shared a number of stories that night from apartheid South Africa, and her own family’s near-brushes with the nation’s ubiquitous security services. It was amazing to learn at our little office party here in Vancouver all these years later that there was such a direct thread back to those historic times half a world away.
Donald Gislason, our resident Musicologist, Archivist and videographer, then recalled the passing of another figure who loomed large on the world stage, Pope John Paul II. Donald was in Ravello at the time, house-sitting for Gore Vidal, and felt compelled to journey immediately to Rome by train. He said the Termini Train station in Rome was overflowing with pilgrims traveling en masse from around the country to say one last farewell to their pope.
Donald stood in line all night outside the Vatican to pay his respects and to bear witness to the history of the moment, talking with others in line, and recalled how personal and traumatic the loss was for many Italians.
One guest was from Poland, and grew up under communist Soviet rule. She recalled being in Berlin with her husband the day the Berlin Wall came down, and the celebratory euphoria that gripped the entire city as that soul-crushing barrier was torn down.
Another guest talked about living in Ireland during The Troubles. Hearing these stories prompted me to talk about Tom’s and my own experience living in New York during the attacks on 9/11.
But out of such an unlikely aggregation of the world’s troubles – apartheid, Soviet repression, terrorism and war – came something quite beautiful. Our concatenated experiences of dramatic and turbulent world events had somehow led all of us here to Vancouver.
Everyone around that table had sought out this extraordinary city on the most peaceful – literally ‘pacific’ – of shores. And the common thread linking all of us is our mutual love of music.
So in the end, what that dinner inspired in me was a renewed reverence for everything we take too easily here for granted. Vancouver is a miraculous creation, an oasis in the world, a global meeting place, a sanctuary for many, a respite from the calamities and woes besetting other parts of the globe.
That, and a vivid illustration of the power of music to heal, to bring people together, to rescue and inspire us, literally to move us!
All of which seems a particularly fitting way both to celebrate and bring to a close this tale of the Vancouver Recital Society‘s very first Annual Chrismakkuh Celebration Dinner!
I wish everyone reading this a joy-filled New Year filled with less ‘interesting’ but equally inspiring times!