Friday, August 3, 2012


Last night I heard a breathtakingly beautiful piece of music, Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirrors in the Mirror) for ‘cello and organ.  Performed in the resonant acoustics of St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor, the notes filled every nook and cranny of this magnificent space.

From the program notes: Spiegel im Spiegel, composed in 1978, is an ethereal lullaby.  It moves at an unvarying pace and is built from the simplest of musical materials: a continuous broken-chord pattern, subject to only the most subtle harmonic shifts; bell tones, deep in the bass and high in the treble; and long-held notes moving by fundamental intervals in the ‘cello. There is not a single chromatic note in the entire work.  The title refers to the infinity of images produced by parallel plane mirrors: tonic triads endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth in ever expanding phrases.

There are performances on You-Tube, of course, but I can find none that begin to replicate what I heard last night.  Most are with piano rather than organ, and this work seems to beg for the sustained sonorities of the organ.

Beginning with my dad’s memorial service on January 1, this year has been filled with loss and challenge.  I feel much like the plants that grow in bogs, buffeted by difficult environments and struggling to grow.  Last night the first few notes of the organ touched me; I closed my eyes and my mind to the distractions around and listened. I was moved to tears and felt comforted in a way that only music can comfort.  I am grateful.

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