Saturday, March 23, 2013

Back to the Lonely Hunter -- Mick Kelly -- Music Within

A few months ago after I created a blog on Carson's McCullers novel, The Heart is the Lonely Hunter, I mentioned that I would come back to one of the main characters of that novel--Mick Kelly. It is time to do that before I get too far away from it.

Mick Kelly is a young girl who is growing into womanhood throughout this novel. Born into a large family in the southern part of the country, Mick is often frustrated. Frustrated because she has much within her that is of great talent, but the problem is how to bring the talent to fruition.

I would like to center on a scene that comes right after the party that Mick organizes. The party is really a type of coming of age for Mick, but all the formality and dressiness of it is quite a failure (at least, a failure  from Mick's point of view). But after Mick has told all of her friends to leave, she goes off by herself to a near by home to sit in a yard to listen to music. Mick has been at this place before to enjoy music from a radio that the owners of the home are enjoying.

In this particular scene, Mick is fortunate to hear some wonderful music which stirs up all sorts of things for her. Mick is able to hear Beethoven-- his Third Symphony. On this evening, even though Mick's party was a disaster, a whole new world is opened for her. Mick comes to realize she has an incredible capacity within her. Mick can hear music and then hold it within herself so as to be able to repeat it-- perhaps even to reproduce it.

Below is a clip from the film. It is a scene with Mick Kelly and John Singer-- the mute of the story. It does deal with music, although it is not exactly the same as in the novel.

Since Mick's family is large and rather poor, the family cannot afford to buy a piano so that Mick can study, play and reproduce music. She does use a piano at her school, but it is in the gym and Mick has to compete with sports and one day she is even hit on the head with a basketball while trying to play the piano.

The novel does not take Mick into adulthood, nor does it take her into any real success in the field of music. But for certain, the novel does convey that this young woman has music within her and she definitely can hear it.

I must admit that I can definitely identify with Mick in regard to certain aspects of music, mostly with the frustrating aspects of it. For most of my life I have had something to do with music. And also because of the largeness of my family and our financial situation, there were not funds available to spend on the luxury of music. Frustration in that regard is not foreign to me either.

When joining Mount Michael's monastic community, my superiors recognized that I did have some musical ability. And as so often happens in monastic communities, one is appointed to a position where he/she does have some talent, but perhaps needs much more training  in the field of the appointment. That was my case. Nonetheless, I have been involved with music all my monastic life-- for better or worse-- as we put it.

And while involved in music, I have met others who are involved in music as well. Most of these individuals are very talented and I must admit that at times I am intimidated. However, at the same time I must admit that I am so moved by these people that I want to mention them and give them some sort of tribute. They certainly merit a place on my blog. There was even a point in my life that I mustered up enough courage to audition for the Omaha Symphonic Choir. I actually made it! In a later blog, I will speak about that experience as well. It was pretty awesome.

For right now, I would like to talk about a special monk of Conception Abbey-- Abbot GregoryPolan.

Abbot Gregory I consider a friend. He and I were together in theology at St. John's, Collegeville, MN. Abbot Gregory played the organ here at Mount Michael for my ordination in 1975. Since that time, Abbot Gregory has done many wonderful things in the monastic world. One of his latest feats is his translation of the Psalms. I will do more on that later as well.  For now I want to speak of Abbot Gregory's wonderful musical talents.

Abbot Gregory is great at improvisation. I have seen him sit at the organ bench playing for long periods of time without any written music in front of him. There was one summer--  the summer of 1978-- I spent living at Conception Abbey. I commuted every day to Northwest Missouri State taking voice and music classes. And then while living at the abbey, I had time to spend long periods of time at the organ with Abbot Gregory. He would play music that he and other monks there at the abbey have composed. But there was never anything of those long periods of time at the organ  better than watching Abbot Gregory just play -- freely without any muisc. Truly it was awesome. Although I remember it raining almost every day that summer and lots of flooding, it was a wonderful time for me. The summer of 1978.

Abbot Gregory is usually very humble about his compositions. He tells me that most of them come from a need at the abbey. The need would be for a piece of music for the Divine Office or the Eucharist or a particular occasion. That has particularly  been the case with the recent changes in translation of the mass parts.

However, one of my all time favorites of his would be: You Are a Garden Fountain. It is based on the Canticle of Canticles. And I am told that he wrote it while he lived in Israel -- Ein Karem. It is really a wonderful, flowing piece of music. The music flows like a gentle fountain-- indeed-- it does.

My first impression was to wonder a bit why a monk would put so much into a "love" song. Really, that is what this piece of music is. But recently I have been reading alot on St. Francis of Assisi and more and more I am discovering his whole life could be considered a "love" song. Singing was essential for this man and saint. I know that most of his life was very troubled and he was sick alot and suffered much, but in many ways he kept singing a "love" song- all his life.

Just because one is in religious life does not mean that that one does not compose or sing "love" songs.

Abbot Gregory, thank you for sharing your gift of music that is within you. It is all very beautiful, especially:
You Are a Garden Fountain. I am sure you do not know this, but I sang your love song, Abbot Gregory, at my Dad's wake service. My Dad worked in my garden almost up to the day he died. He, too, had music within him.

Below is a promotion video of Conception Abbey. Abbot Gregory speaks in it. Although at this point, I am not able to get a version of You Are a Garden  Fountain in this blog, some day I will figure it out. At least, you can view Conception Abbey and its present abbot.

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