Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tribute to Paul Aitken

We just returned from a trip to New York to participate in and be audience members for the New York premiere of Paul's work "And None Shall Be Afraid." This is a five-movement piece of music, the text of which is from five different religious traditions' prayers for peace. It is stunning musically, spiritually, emotionally--every way possible.

I've heard this piece many, many times. I never tire of it. It always lifts me up and inspires me. It makes me want to be a peacemaker.

All throughout rehearsals, Paul kept telling his choir members (two of which we children of mine)that his main goal was for the text, the words, to really come through. He really wants this piece to advocate for peace in the world. Even up through the dress rehearsal, his constant direction was "more text." The singers like to tease Paul about his "more text" admonitions. He takes it well. That's the kind of guy Paul is. He doesn't mind being teased, and he gives as much as he gets.

When performance time came, the text shone through loud and clear. I was transported. Really. Some music is so familiar, so common now that it has to be extra special in performance to transform me as a listener. And even though I've heard this peace so many times I can almost sing it through to myself in my head, this performance was transporting. It lifts my heart. It makes me want to stand up with a loud "Amen." (Which I am happy to report, I did not do in the middle of Carnegie Hall.)

And here's the thing about the music: it came from the soul of Paul Aitken. I pondered this for some time during our trip. What is it about the music that truly takes one to another level? Paul put everything of himself into this music, that's what. It contains all of his theology, all of his world view, all of his life and love. I know I'm sounding pretty cheesy and corny here, but it's true. What else would make hundreds of singers and their families pay tons of money and time to go to New York to sing this piece? It is something about Paul that makes people want to participate in these adventures with him. It is his ferocious fearlessness to put all of himself out there in order to create a musical experience that will inspire others to do the same. He lives his life with constant conviction that we can each make a difference.

And just so you don't think this is all groupie worship, let me just say I've been friends with Paul for a number of years now, and he is no saint. He has plenty of human faults and failings, which I won't go into, because anyone who knows him is well aware of all these. But his soul is full of good. His music is, as I recently described to my brother-in-law, fresh, classic, and global all at once.

I want to thank my friend for bringing this music into being. For being willing to put it all out there. For lifting up the hearts of so many. And for daring to make a difference. My daughter Melissa has said that music is my religion. I don't deny it. It is how the highest of spiritual experiences can best be expressed. "And None Shall Be Afraid" would be the statement of faith for my music-based religion. Thanks, Paul.


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