Back in high school I was “into” photography. I was never much good at it – I had the fatal flaw of not taking very interesting pictures – but got pretty good at some of the basic darkroom techniques. My interest catapulted me to the august position of photography editor of my high school yearbook, so I took a lot of mostly second-rate photographs that are preserved forever in the 1972 Friends School yearbook, including many of my friends.
One of the photos I took was of my longtime friend Krissy, who described her expression in the picture as “trying to smile while trying not to cry.” I’ve never forgotten that description.
Smiling and crying are not as far apart as we tend to think and, like Siamese twins, are present as a couple throughout our lives. My daughter Lissa reported yesterday that Silas was largely inconsolable, fussing and crying pretty much all day. This morning, however, Lissa says “he’s debuting a new smile – bigger and better, with smiley eyes too. Maybe that’s what he was working on yesterday.”
I was smiling through tears two days ago. I spent most of Friday moping about, not quite giving in to baby-like fussing, but feeling out of sorts all day, until I had the brilliant idea to lift myself out of my funk by music.
The vehicle that did it for me was the thrilling YouTube performance led by Paul McCreesh of Handel’s oratorio Solomon. (I will be directing Solomon with the Burlington Choral Society in November, 2014.) Handel’s music about love in all its forms is a marvel in Solomon. Act 1 is about sensual, sexual love between Solomon and his Queen, culminating in an exchange of “airs” (at 42:25) and a sweet-scented chorus at 47:52, which praises the “wise” monarch and “chaste” Queen. (Ha!)
Act 2 is about love and justice, as Solomon cleverly and wisely decides between two mothers’ claim for a baby. Listen to the true mother at 1:14:08 implore Solomon to “Take him all but spare my child.” Act 3 is an unabashed paean to the magnificence of Solomon’s court as reported by the visiting Queen of Sheba, culminating in an appropriately opulent double chorus at 2:08:22 (that some, including myself use as the final chorus). It was this chorus that produced my tears and watery smile.
I’m listening to it now. Gets me every time.