18 July 2008

Choral Festival, Second Night

There were actually three simultaneous events for it last night. Mom and I went to the one at Stephen's performing art center, but there was one on lower campus at Goransen and one at the Blackfoot HS auditorium.

The first group to sing was from China. Very good. I would have liked to hear more, well, China, in the songs they chose. They were all by Chinese composers (this was the first group to provide a program of their songs), but most of the melodies would have fit right in to a European context. But that's a reflection on my expectations rather than on the performance itself.

The next group was from Spain. Very very good. They sang completely a capella, and did it beautifully. Most of their songs seemed to be Spanish folk songs. They wore beautiful, traditional Spanish garb, with the ladies all in long skirts, most with a shawl, some with an apron or apparent-corset instead (apparent because no one could sing in a real corset). The men wore knickers with a white shirt and dark vest, and either a kerchief or a hat.

The last group was a subset of Pocatello's Camerata singers. They have very good voices, and good energy, but I got extremely tired of their consistently religious repertoire. Many of the groups had a religious song or two, but the Cameratas... I can only think of two of their songs that were not religious. They had two spirituals, and normally I like spirituals, but I made the mistake of trying to make sense of the lyrics.

"Ain't Got Time to Die" is just creepy, especially when you remember that spirituals originated with slaves in the south. They ain't got time to die because they're busy "servin' my Jesus", "workin' for the Kingdom", and "servin' my master" on various verses. Now, if it were God/Jesus/etc they were serving, they could continue to serve him/it/them after death, right? So, er, yeah. In the context of slavery, it almost feels like a protest song, with a possible ironic casting of the "masters" as God. And that just creeps me out. But lacking that context, it just seems whiny.

The other spiritual falls into the trap that many in philosophy club accused stoicism of. Apparently in any sort of real world trouble you should shout praises to God. The subtext may be intended to read "and then God will come to your aid," but I got the impression it was more of a last act of desperation. It doesn't have to be. It could be a sort of ironic commentary, but, if so, the irony was lost in the performance. Then again, a lot of Zen and Stoic thought is concerned with accepting things as they are in this moment, and lots of people misinterpret that as fatalism, but it's really not. If you accept things as they are, then you, first off, know how they are, and might even know what you ought to do to improve them, keep them the same, etc. "Know" is entirely the wrong word for zen thought, of course. It's more that you're so in the moment that you act as part of that moment, and your action is exactly what is required. "Surrender to the moment." Praising the moment, on the other hand, requires conscious thought, which means that the moment is already lost. You can't be in the moment if you're thinking about the moment.

Apologies for not analyzing more songs, but most of them were in languages I don't understand. It's possible I would argue just as vociferously with them if I had understood the lyrics. `/^

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