Dear friends around the world,
The year 2015 is drawing to a close, and I find myself taking stock of the preceding 12 months.
This has been a momentous year in our world. I lament the hate and xenophobia that spews forth from many of our elected leaders. I grieve for those who flee their own countries, and who live in fear in their own cities, even as I urge local officials and national elected officers to take positive, love-filled actions.
Closer to home, I rejoice in little acts, such as a colleague organizing a concert for peace last week, and the various collections of food and household needs that allow me to share the riches of everyday life.
The year 2015 is my first in three years with no broken bones, so I rejoice further!
I think of family. Both nieces reached milestones this year, with Kristen graduating from college with her nursing degree, and Anna graduating high school and starting college here in Saint Louis. My father turned 80 this year; we shared a quiet family celebration, as were his wishes. Sisters Karen and Beth and their families continue to live in the Kansas City area.
I think of creativity. Jimmy Stevens premiered my setting of “Storypeople Songs” in April. I received a couple of awards for music directing in musical theatre, with nods from both the Saint Louis Theatre Critics Circle and the Riverfront Times. My students just go from strength to strength, and I delight in their successes too. Various writing projects and composing projects are coming to conclusion, with hopes that the next year may see some publications too.
I think of school. Now in my eighth year at Webster University, I continue to love and cherish the rigors, challenges, and opportunities of the day job. I made full Professor this year, starting Fall 2015 at the new rank. We hired a new colleague this year and sent a 42-year member of the faculty off into retirement. We have two more searches underway right now. Our students continue to amaze me. My own students continue to provide me both joy and challenge, and I grow through my interaction with them. We added two new performance programs this semester, with another on the way. Our holiday concert is available to view!
I think of travel. This summer was filled with away days. A friend and I vacationed in three European capitals (Amsterdam, where we stayed five nights in a canal boat!; Berlin; and Prague, in an apartment overlooking the river and the Charles Bridge). That trip included a day visit to Antwerp, Belgium; one to Potsdam, Germany, where I visited the site of the Potsdam Conference; and a sober away-day in Terezin to see the Czech concentration camp. I returned to Europe a few weeks later to engage in some Webster University work in two more capitals (Athens and Vienna), but not before having a couple of idyllic vacation days on the island of Hydra, of the Greek Peloponnesian coast. Meanwhile, this year included a couple of trips to New York City, to Chicago, and long weekends in Las Vegas and Helena (both of the latter trips to see students in shows). I also hit Interlochen, Michigan; Bourbonnais, Illinois; the Lake of the Ozarks; and Lincoln, Nebraska — all for various things related to work and service.
I think of companions. A few days after returning from Europe in September, I made a difficult decision about my beloved Samson. His daily lot was confusion and distress as he suffered from canine dementia. He died in my arms on September 28, slipping away peacefully as I sang to him and thanked him for being my loyal friend. We’d been together for nearly seven years; he had been with me in this home for all but one month that I’ve lived at 25 Lawn Place. After publicly proclaiming I’d wait a while until another furry friend shows up, I adopted Augustus Rex, a miniature Schnauzer, on October 31. This little four-year-old rescue dog has brought new joy and very different energy to my life, and I think I to his. He’s certainly getting me outdoors more often!
I think of my home. This little house in the City of Saint Louis continues to be a delightful place to live and love and be peaceful. I undertook some remodeling this year, and now have a home office and study where I can relax and feel at home. The former home library is now the guest room, and I have a proper wood-floor, leather wing chair, memento-covered-wall home office. Conversely, I am also reminded of the darker side of urban living, as a recent nighttime burglary attests. Thanks be to god for alarm systems and God-winks that caused me to have my housekeys upstairs with me that night!
December is a full month of music, but every month is! This month alone includes concerts at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and at Webster. A performance of The Nutcracker by the Missouri Ballet. A holiday cabaret performed by colleagues at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Lessons & Carols at a local Episcopal church. (A screening of Star Wars four days before Christmas.) A jazz event at school, and a student composer’s final concert as well. And then Christmas Eve at my home parish of Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, where I will conduct my own setting of “The Oxen” with the choir. I am rich in music and art!
As I write today, Morton Lauridsen’s setting of “O magnum mysterium” is on the stereo. Oh, how great this mystery, that animals should witness this virgin birth as Christ comes to earth. This mystery continues to confound and thrill. And our world needs now, as much as ever, the light of Christ — of true Christ-like teaching of love, acceptance, forgiveness, charity — to break through the gloom, in glorious brightness of day, in truth and passionate commitment to caring for others . . . to healing our world . . . to loving our neighbors as ourselves.
May Christmastide 2015 lead us into a glorious new year.