The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Forget the camera

This past weekend, I was in New Orleans for a chorus festival. Being the absent-minded scatterbrain I am, I forgot to bring my camera on the trip.

There was certainly no shortage of things to take pictures of. Even in less than a week, you can experience a lot in “N’awlins.” We visited an aquarium, stopped by most of (or at least a good number of) the souvenir shops in the French Quarter, and took a street car to the Garden District (lots of beautiful old homes and free Mardi Gras beads). We suffered a sugar-saturated beignet breakfast, savored a scrumptious gumbo luncheon, and endured a restaurant dinner where little kids ran wild (Cajun Chuck E Cheese’s if you will). The experience I enjoyed the most was going to a live jazz club and having dinner while reveling in the rhythm of real New Orleans jazz (their trumpeter turns 100 next month, and their trombone player gets into the music so much he’ll start dancing with his instrument while sitting down).

But surprisingly, the best part of the trip for me was the chorus aspect of it. There were choruses from all over the country attending, and some of them were really good. I got to know a few of the singers from the other choruses pretty well, and it was heaps of fun being with them. And the music was great. When we all sang together, it was nothing short of magical at times.

I also really enjoyed meeting our guest conductor Bob Chilcott. Besides being an awesome and talented conductor, he was the composer/arranger of several of the songs we were doing, so he knew exactly how each song should be, and the result was fantastic.

I think my favorite song was The Lily and the Rose, a modern arrangement that Mr. Chilcott had done of an old 16th century poem. Regrettably, I couldn’t find an SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) arrangement online, but this soprano-alto version I came across is also very beautiful, and well sung:

The maidens came
When I was in my mother’s bower;
I had all that I would.
The bailey beareth the bell away;
The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.
The silver is white, red is the gold;
The robes they lay in fold.
The bailey beareth the bell away;
The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.
And through the glass window shines the sun.
How should I love, and I so young?
The bailey beareth the bell away;
The lily, the rose, the rose I lay.

~ Anonymous

I feel something when I read poetry like this. Usually something along the lines of “What the heck does this mean?”

In this case, there are multiple possibilities. One interpretation is that it’s about a rich young girl who’s pledged to be married to a man of her status, but loves another, poorer man (it makes sense if you look into it; the full exposition is here). Mr. Chilcott gave us the possibility that it’s about a girl weeping for her lost love, an English soldier who’s been killed in battle by the French, but he seemed to favor the idea that it’s about Mary mourning the death of Jesus.

All of these interpretations make sense to some extent if you look into the meanings of the words in the poem, but I’m afraid it can addle your brain after a while: Is the bailey the low-ranking man who has won the girl’s love? The “keep” where the soldier’s body is taken? The Bailiff who bears away the Beautiful One (belle)? What about the lily and the rose? Is it the lily of purity and innocence VS the rose of love and passion? The lily of France VS the rose of England? What about the purity of Mary VS the red of the blood shed by Christ? If the silver is white, and red is the gold, does that mean that the lily is worth less than the rose? Is purity lesser than love then? France inferior to England? *gasp* Is this song actually saying something political? On the confusions rolls…

So what is the purpose of this song? To express the fear of marrying one you do not love? To mourn the passing of one you do love? To make a political statement between nations at war? To grieve over the death of a mother’s son?

As we sang this song in the final concert, these meanings glided back and forth through my mind. One moment I saw the girl crying over her lost soldier, the next I saw Mary holding the body of Jesus, and so on, so forth. But by the last chorus, I’d forgotten to think about who or what the bailey was, and what he was doing with the bell. I stopped thinking, and I just listened to the music as we sang it.

Words matter, be they in a book, online, or in the lyrics or text of a song. But sometimes we forget that you don’t have to fully understand something to appreciate its beauty. You don’t have to analyze something, and document it, and take it apart with Descartes’ screwdriver so you know how it ticks, in order to know that it’s beautiful.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I forgot my camera. I wasn’t able to document much, but perhaps I was able to experience it all the more as a result.

When the song was finished, the concert done, the trip all over, that song was still running through my head, and I found myself asking God to show me more of His beauty because of it.

And I can’t help but think that that was the purpose all along.


2 responses to “Forget the camera

  1. Dorothy June 25, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Strangely, I of all people sometimes like forgetting my camera so that I can live the moment through my eyes and not a lens. I definitely agree that overanylization can take away from the beauty of things–take cells for example. The intrigue of something so small, so complex, so BEAUTIFUL can easily be taken away by a unit in biology class studying cellular respiration. Another example could be a drawing. People may ponder the meaning for years, but what if it’s just a drawing, made for God’s glory, made simply to BE beautiful??

  2. c April 6, 2013 at 4:56 am

    lovely 🙂 thank you.

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