Yesterday afternoon, September 4th, I experienced about three hours of sublime magnificence just a twenty minute walk from my house. Mountain Top Music Center, in conjunction with Music In The Great North Woods, presented Bach’s Mass in B minor at the Majestic Theatre on Main Street here in Conway. I don’t have the words to properly convey how incredible this experience was. Every detail – from the obvious virtuosity and care of the performers to the almost surreal quality and appearance of the replicas of 18th century instruments, right down to the tuning of concert pitch to 415 Hz – was exquisite and beautiful.
And though I’ve been away from blogging for a bit (I’m back from summer break – I think!) faithful readers will know that it’s often the absurd and hilarious details that stick with me the longest.
During the intermission, I stood in a very long line for the restroom, occasionally making small talk with others, watching performers and audience members milling about. During a lull in the chatter, I watched one of the 18 singers come walking down the hall, who just a few moments before had been singing:
cum Sancto Spiritu:
in gloria Dei Patris.
signaled to another singer by waving his thumb over his shoulder, and announcing to everyone within earshot:
Flanked on all sides by concert goers who seemed to be ignoring this exchange, it was all I could do not to burst out with laughter.
Towards the end of the second half of the program, this same tenor got his solo:
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini
and as his gorgeous voice filled the hall, I pictured this same human encountering the clogged toilet. Was he upset? Angry? In a rush? Did he mutter anything um-Mass-like under his breath? I wondered if anyone managed to clear it, or if an ‘out or order’ sign had been posted, or how many others of the performers had been inconvenienced, or disgusted, or amused, by any of this.
And while I’m thinking about plumbing and the very down-to-Earth details of backstage life, here is the genius of Bach being channeled across the centuries through the hands and hearts of a stage full of folks who, like the rest of us, long for things like unclogged toilets and harmony and laughter.
I shook my head at myself and this goofy tangent, and then moments later, another singer – the countertenor – raised his solo voice in the final Agnus Dei as tears of astonishment streamed down my cheeks.
I’m not Catholic – neither was Bach – nor am I anything. I’m just another human who longs for both beauty and mirth, and I enjoy being reminded again and again of how both can be found in overwhelming abundance everywhere we look – even (and sometimes especially) in a shared line for the restroom.