Ave Maria

As I write this it’s roughly 1:30 in the morning on Christmas Eve, which rather reminds me of those fables and proverbs built around riddles, like the lovers who can only have permission to marry when there are two Sundays in a week. I wanted to do a musical post, because I spent the evening singing and laughing with friends. First, practice for the song I’m singing for “special music” on Sunday (“Babe in the Straw” – the version Leigh Nash of Sixpense None the Richer recorded), then full choir practice immediately following. I was so cold during the first part that I was breathy and pitchy. If I look at the music, I mess up. Good thing I know all the words.

Our Christmas Eve service will be both more formal and more relaxed this year – yes, it can be both – we’re trying a new flow to things, and while I suspect some may find it a little discomfited by the whole thing – including language like “vespers” and “vigil,” I’m certain that, ultimately, it will be a lovely evening, and I’m looking forward to singing with everyone, and then racing across town to attend the “midnight” mass at one of the Episcopal churches. (It starts at 10:30)

A few nights ago, I sat on the back deck with Fuzzy and we celebrated the winter solstice by watching the eclipse and necking. More of the latter than of the former, really, but we saw enough of the show in the sky to appreciate the event. People say that the veil between the living and departed is thinnest around Halloween, but my grandmother is most definitely pressing against the sheer fabric of time in these days that lead from Solstice to Christmas. I walk into rooms – rooms she never lived to see – and catch the faintest whiff of her perfume; I wake in the middle of the night and feel the soothing touch of her cool, soft hand on my sweaty brow.

She always used to sing around the house. To herself, to her violets, to my grandfather, to me. She never knew the words, but she knew the music, unless you put it in front of her. She could play chords by ear, but couldn’t read actual musical notation.

My mother associates the song “Hello Dolly” with her, and that’s not inappropriate – she loved the song – but when I think of her, it’s “Ave Maria” that plays in my head. The version I prefer is Schubert’s, possibly because I grew up with it, but the version playing on my computer tonight, and in my heart, is the Bach prelude that plays under Gounod’s lyrics. The first is bold and passionate, the second, gentler, more contemplative.