The Epistle of Q — Chapter Eighty-Three “About One’s Requiem”

This will be a brief intrusion into your day. And I don’t want you to become maudlin about what I am about to talk about. The thing is that I went to another incredible performance by the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra on Saturday evening. Assisted by both the Symphony Chorus and the Musaic Choir, I experienced one of the best renditions of Verdi’s Requiem I have ever heard. It was powerful, it was articulate, it was musical. The conductor (Rosemary Thompson) did a number of things that made the entire performance resonate in a way that when it was all finished and she was greeting us at the door to the auditorium, all I could say was: “You will have to do this all over again, for my funeral!”

But it also got me thinking about something a good friend of mine said the other day. As you may know, this particular friend is one of the true Renaissance men I have ever known. He can ski, canoe, kayak, play the piano like Beethoven, orate like Cicero or maybe even Marc Anthony, is a superb grandpa/great-grandpa, can be funny and yet has an IQ somewhere north of 150, and is generally exceedingly bright. He can wax poetic about a piece of good academic writing, or be satirically pointed about some idiotic political statement. He is an interesting person. All this is background though to what he said to me after I had made a couple of comments about my own funeral.

I had said that I was assembling a play list that would accompany whatever pictures might be shown as well as an intro to the actual service. I had mentioned that there would be pieces from Rod McKuen (probably mostly sung by Glenn Yarbrough), the Jefferson Airplane, John Denver, Chicago and Chris de Burgh. Might even add some Tamarack and Arlo Guthrie. And perhaps some music from favourite movies. In the classical vein, The Canticle to Jean Racine, music from the Fireworks and Messiah… and on I went. But he cut me off and said he was disappointed that I wasn’t restricting it to great classical pieces (and he would give me some advice on this if I would ask). I replied I would think about it.

So, now I am thinking about it. Yes, I could handle having Verdi’s Requiem in its entirety played either as the setting for the service or as some other part of the festivities (it won’t be a celebration of life, because I will be dead — I’d prefer people call it a Requiem for the Inconsequential). Nevertheless I’m sorry but that would not be sufficient. In many ways, one’s favourite music helps define who you are. I love good classical music yes, and not just when performed by an orchestra. Listening to Tom Annand on the pipe organ at St. Andrew’s in Ottawa, or the choir & organ at A&P in Montreal really gives me a great feeling. However I also still get a sense of reflection when I have Arlo Guthrie coming through my ear-buds while working out; just like I can get more pumped up when Jefferson Airplane is the artist on the I-Pod. Some of John Denver’s lyrics have a profound resonance with me, especially on the speed bike or while skipping or driving through the mountains. And Glenn Yarbrough’s interpretations of Rod McKuen’s poetry to me are legendary no matter where I am.

Going to the symphony is enjoyable, but so is attending a Diana Krall concert or having dinner at the Dream Cafe (in Penticton) and listening to whomever is the featured artist of the evening. And Jazz Vespers at St. Saviour’s in Penticton is almost always a treat for the ears. Now this may exclude me from ever hoping to join the ranks of the Renaissance people, but I’ve managed to get over the reality of never becoming an NHL goalie nor the frontman for a rock & roll band; so I think I will be okay just enjoying music in it’s broadest spectrum.

And, when I finally get the full play-list drawn up, I’ll try to remember to post it here. That way if you don’t get to my Requiem for the Inconsequential you will still be able to search the web and listen to the musical settings that I would like you to enjoy on my behalf. In the meantime, start thinking about the music that helps define you. Ponder the ultimate playlist, share it with your kids and grandkids (if you have any) and if not, then nephews, nieces and best friends. And do it while you are still alive. Let’s face it, if you don’t then chances are at your service the music will be someone else’s interpretation either of who they thought or wanted you to be or else of what they would like to hear at that time.

As for my Renaissance Man, I’m assuming that at his we will hear Mozart’s Requiem along with a good deal of music from his kids and grandkids — but I can wait for a couple of decades before I would even begin to think about finding out.

g.w.

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