Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, with 262 glorious voices . . . . .

. . . and 100 orchestral members, plus conductor and three soloists, delivered a magnificent musical expression on the 100th anniversary of World War I. Written in 1961 just as the Vietnam War was ramping up, and played only very seldom, due to the enormous resources it commands, this was an afternoon I will forever  remember. 

I had sent a message this morning to our fb private Green Acres Village group, asking if someone wanted to go with me to this afternoon’s concert, and was not surprised when Andreas, pianist extraordinaire, and it turns out, teacher of the extraordinarily expressive soprano soloist in today’s concert, agreed to go.

As we walked to the event, on the IU campus about a mile away, we talked about the human propensity for violence leading to war. I told him about the amazing fb encounter with the man I thought was a real life friend and who (“seriously”!, he claimed) threatened to kill me for my political views. In response, Andreas told me about the book he is reading, Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed, and said I might like to borrow it when he’s done, since it contemplates the effects of extremist ideologies upon the human being. I agreed, it’s time for me to read this book again.

Then we talked about human creativity, how even the most devious people are exhibiting creativity in their very deviousness! Why not turn that deviousness to good?

He and I were able to score front row seats in the second balcony. The place was packed, which surprised those who put on this performance, thinking it would not draw that many people. The capacity of this auditorium is 3154 seats. I imagine the crowd drew near to 3000.

I wonder: is this Veterans Day, this Armistice Day, this Remembrance Day different than others? On this 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, is the world really waking up to the complex horrific tragedy (and racket) of war?

According to what I read, the Deep State has been trying to ignite World War III for several years now, and what’s keeping it at bay is the alliance between Putin and Trump. I wonder if that’s true. See today’s other post: 11.11: THUMB UP! 

Oh, and BTW: I just read that what kept Putin and Trump from meeting in any sustained manner today was Macron. He didn’t want them to steal his thunder. In fact, they were supposed to be seated next to each other at the luncheon, but then their seats were hastily changed so that they had to sit across from each other. What a small man, that Macron!

But back to this afternoon’s concert.

 

On the opening page of the program:

“My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is pity.
All a poet can do is to warn.”

— Wilfred Owen, a World War I soldier and poet, who died

shortly before the Armistice.

War Requiem, Op. 66: Words from the Missa pro Defunctis and the poems of Wilfred Owen.

I’ll leave it to you to go find the lyrics to this Requiem for War, to War, about War. The words are beautiful, and fully as anguished as the music itself, all the human and instrumental voices exquisitely, haltingly, screechingly, murmuringly expressive of the longing, fear, terror, love, horror, and ultimately, not exactly peace, but a meeting of two soldiers, from either side, both of whom are dead.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned

yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.

I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.

Let us sleep now.

While listening to this magnificent tribute to the human capacity for endless destruction and resurrection, I marveled at how an orchestra is the perfect template of how humans can not just learn to get along, but to pull together gloriously, each one expressing his own skill and talent while attuning fully with others towards a common goal, a common feeling, a common meaning.

The words of Nietszche were never more appropriate:

‘WE HAVE ART IN ORDER NOT TO DIE OF THE TRUTH.”

 

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