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  • Writer's pictureChurch Muse

Nimrod from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations - Maybe we just need to cry

The dictionary definition of “catharsis” is: The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. They even use the following to illustrate the meaning: “Music is a means of catharsis for them.”

So I guess that’s what I’m trying to do with these posts - provide a means of catharsis for people as we are living in these trying times. I believe it is more important than we can imagine to find ways to release some of these emotions that are inevitably bottled up. We are in close quarters with the same people - regardless of how much you may love them, it’s not easy! And the opposite - we miss connecting with many we love. This is a dangerous cocktail for our emotional well-being.

Yesterday we celebrated Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And thus Holy Week begins. For Christians, this is the time of year we reflect upon the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is comfort in the familiarity of this ritual and its message of sacrifice and redemption. It flows in parallel with the the predictable pattern that nature offers us yearly - winter is dormant, spring is resurrection. It is the cycle of the earth, God’s creation, but it is also a spiritual and emotional cycle to which we are accustomed. If this had to happen, we can be grateful that it is in this season, because our cycle/ritual of faith is at its peak, too.

If you are feeling despondent, discouraged, frightened, in what ways are you finding to cope? We’ve all seen good ideas on TV - mindful meditation, or just breathe! Helping others. Finding a creative project. But for me, these are not enough. I am truly grieving, and I think many of us are. Maybe it’s not about being “cheered up,” but allowing ourselves to address our sadness. Have you heard the little saying, “Tears are God’s tranquilizers”? I speak as a professional “cry-er.” As a musician, it’s pretty much a daily thing for me. But have you ever surprised yourself at how touched you were by a song or piece of music, and you choked up a bit? Tears are cleansing, and we need them right now. We need to clean up and move forward, to the next level.

If you’re having trouble releasing, maybe you need a catalyst. Music is perfect for that! Even the dictionary says so! Take your “mommy needs some time alone in the bathroom” moments - bring your phone and earbuds, (a glass of wine is optional, but encouraged) sit on the toilet lid, (feel grateful that you have a roll of t.p. next to you) and listen. Those tears will help keep you emotionally grounded to get on with the “new normal.” We all need tears right now to help us pass through the portal to the next stage of this process.

There are many, many pieces of music that make me cry - just out of their sheer beauty. This one begins very peacefully, and slowly grows in crescendo to a bright light of hope. I have a very fond memory of a performance many years ago in Memphis, Tennessee at a recital given by my dear friend, Diane Meredith Belcher. I was so excited to find this YouTube recording of her playing it, and at our very own William Jewell College in Liberty, MO on the gorgeous Quimby Opus 55 organ in the Gano Chapel.

This piece was written for a full orchestra, but you can hear how the pipe organ is a magical “one-woman” orchestra in the capable and artistic hands of Diane, on the exquisite instrument built by the Quimby Pipe Organ Company.

I would be amiss if I didn’t also share an orchestral version, too. Both versions still make me cry. Be well, my friends. Go cry so you can smile on the other side.

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