Today is Christmas Eve. My annual holiday letter is late in arriving, but with Christmastide just a few hours away, this still makes the mark.
I am listening today to the international broadcast of Lessons & Carols from King’s College Cambridge, and I find myself thinking about how much I miss conducting choral music. Perhaps a change is in order? A new group here in Saint Louis? We shall see.
Meanwhile, life continues to be full and rich and sometimes overwhelming. Last week, I completed my 25th year of university teaching. What began in January 1990 as a one-class gig plus choir at the community college in Blue Springs has led me through a half-dozen other institutions, numerous choral groups, international-level volunteering, and a life’s work. I am in my 7th year as Chair of the Department of Music at Webster University. We go from strength to strength, with a significant focus on excellence amongst our current students and growth in capacity and focus as we move forward. Generational shift is happening too: we have hired a new faculty member for next year as we fill a hole left by the retirement of a 42-year member of our faculty, and we have a search going on right now for another faculty member in a new line. These are positive signs of growth and life!
I have composed a bit less this year than in past years, focusing instead on reading a great deal of music that is new to me. But I did make my first stab at a popular-style song (musical theatre style) in January, and I’m very happy with this year’s Christmas carol. These next few weeks should bring a burst of compositional activity, as I have a song cycle to work on, plus an anthem for the local Episcopal cathedral.
My life includes a new gig this year: I am resident music director for New Line Theatre in Saint Louis. We have our first show of the three-show season down, with the next one starting just into the new year.
Travel this year included a couple of NYC trips, one of them with my niece Anna in tow for her first-ever experience in the city; a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona; a quick trip to Chicago in May to see Christine Brewer in The Sound of Music; a summer vacation with the Johnsons in Portland, Oregon; and a few short business trips including San Antonio. I’m excited about the next big trip, to Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague this next July.
Ingrid the Volvo retired in May, and I now lease Birgit the Volvo, a 2015 S-60 with way too much power under the hood. She’s exactly the kind of sedan that is right for a middle-aged man who has broken his leg twice in the last two years.
Perhaps the two big newsy items this year are the death of my beloved great-aunt Esther Summers in April, just a few days shy of her 102nd birthday; and my broken leg and surgery a few weeks prior to that. I spent the latter part of February and March learning how to walk with a titanium rod in my right tibia!
Aunt Esther’s funeral happened on the same day that I was inducted in the Lee’s Summit High School Hall of Fame on a day filled with contrasts and emotion.
Saint Louis has been rocked in the past few months with overt and clear indications that sin continues to wrack our world. I do what I can to support important local institutions that are working to facilitate change. My parish family at Christ Church Cathedral is on the forefront of some of these efforts.
The family continues to live in Lee’s Summit and other points in western Missouri. I shall join them tomorrow for a holiday meal and to give some presents to the wee ones. Samson, newly slimmed down and in fighting shape at age 14, will remain here in Saint Louis with a dear friend.
The year 2014 closes with economic hope but civil uncertainty, with questions all around. But people of good will can and will overcome and bring about the world we wish to see . . . of this I am certain. Justice and mercy and grace shall prevail.
The rounds of holiday concerts and end-of-semester tasks are over. Now silence, and peace, and growing light and hope. A blessed Christmastide to all!