I was awake at 4 am. And 5 am. And 6 am.
At 7 am, I had to take our car across the street to the Ford dealership because we got here with a leak (after having just had it serviced). When the guy behind the counter asked me why I was here, I just blurted out (no doubt sounding like a crazy man), "THEY'RE SINGING AND PLAYING MY MUSIC AT DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL TONIGHT!!
The handsome guy behind the counter got a big smile on his face and told me he played French Horn and that he was very happy for me.
Yesterday morning, after walking around the City Hall plaza, I wandered over to MCC SF for the morning worship service. Got there early during the choir rehearsal. Kathleen was there singing. My friend, Stephanie, was musical directing.
I was buzzing from my walkabout and barely able to sit.
And then they started singing "Seasons of Love" from RENT.
"Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes" -- "How do you measure a year in the life?" And tears just started gushing from my eyes. I thought about my beloved Dick Remley who died -- how long ago? Has it been seven years? I thought about a new friend of mine named Anne whose husband died suddenly, unexpected from cancer just a couple of days ago, leaving six children -- and they didn't even know he was sick. A week ago he was on a trip and today he's gone.
This song reminds me so vividly that we have to grab every single second of life and live it to the fullest. That none of us, whether we have AIDS or think we think we have years, that it can be taken from us without warning.
On this day, World AIDS Day, we think of AIDS and we try to reach out to people and educate them about this disease. But, really, we should also use it to be reminded that there are no guarantees in this life -- and that the people who surround us are really the ones who give us measure of the value of every moment.
After the emotional church service in a place that can only be called Ground Zero for the AIDS Holocaust, we were reminded that during the height of the worst part of the crisis, there were so many people dying, they just gave up on having a memorial service for any single person, but instead, resorted to a weekly "group memorial service."
I want everyone reading this to imagine your own community or church facing this kind of devastation, where so many of your friends were dying so quickly, you couldn't keep up with the lists.
Rev. Neil Thomas in LA a few weeks ago said that during this period, he become known at the death minister. He was attending or running a funeral almost every single day, sometimes three or four a day. Please try to imagine rushing from one funeral to the next, barely able to keep up.
(He also said that this past year he became known as the marriage minister as gay and lesbian couples rushed to get married -- at least, sadly, until this past election.)
After the service, Kathleen and I went to lunch and spent a couple of hours just talking about New World Waking and the extraordinary way in which it all came together. We celebrated together and talked about the songs and it was really fun because only the two of us know what it took to bring this together.
Kathleen is not someone who just puts notes on a page. She's a true creative artist whose musical education far exceeds mine. (I joked with her that tonight I expected her to give the audience a full music theory analysis of the chords.)
She has lived with these songs and believes in them as fully and as deeply as I do. From the first day I sat with her at that little out of tune piano, to the moment she said, "I have chills running up and down my arms" to the moment she introduced it to the SFGMC Board, to the night she introduced the music to the chorus and then the orchestra.
We talked about the day Teddy Witherington, the chorus Executive Director, called me and suggested not calling it a cantata -- "sounds too boring" -- and the day we settled on the name New World Waking. (It had been called, temporarily, Pantheon Bar & Grill).
She told me how amazing it was to watch the chorus when they first rehearsed with the orchestra.
Oh, man. I could on and on. And I will, but it's time for breakfast and my heart is so full, I'm all but exploding.
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