Spreading musical blossoms for Mother’s Day

On Mothers Day Anne Mei and I usually cast flowers on the stream where we have placed Laura’s ashes.  Since Anne Mei is still up at college this year studying for her statistics exam on Monday, I went up to Syracuse University last Tuesday to join Anne Mei for her Baroque Ensemble concert.

The Setnor School of Music is housed in Crouse College, the third oldest building on campus, built with long meadow brownstone in late 19th Century Romanesque Revival style with High Victorian Gothic details.  Even though the 700 seat auditorium has a 70-foot high open timber ceiling, its lovely acoustics allowed the small groups of performers in the ensemble to fill the room with their music.

With eight members, Anne Mei’s group was the largest.

Catherine Bauman, soprano
Sasha Turner, soprano
Ha-Young Synn, mezzo-soprano
Carolyn Goldstein, violin
Matthew VanDemark, violin
Anne Mei Daly, viola
Ensam Lee, ‘cello
Julia Tucker, organ.

They performed four sections from Girolamo Abos’ Stabat Mater.   Being the product of 16 years of Catholic schools, I am quite familiar with the Stabat Mater, but not with Abos, an early 18th century Maltese composer and musician.  I don’t know if any readers of this blog were able to listen to the live streaming of this concert, but I include below a recording of the next to last section they performed.  Recording does not capture all the energy of these young musicians, but I think this part comes closest to being there.  Here is the text they sing, followed by my translation, followed by the recording.

Quando corpus morietur,
Fac ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.

When my body is dying,
May my soul be granted
The glory of paradise.

In addition to the Stabat Mater, the program included three other songs to the mother of Jesus.  Quite appropriate for a concert in May, the month of Mary, and for the week before Mother’s Day.  In contrast to the somber Stabat Mater, Monteverdi’s Currite populi (Run, people) bursts with the joy of May.  I also thought that Sean Jordan, the countertenor, did a great job.   He may not be at the level of Anthony Roth Costanza yet, but he has the potential.  Jeremy Hobson is on the harpsichord.  (Text provided so you can follow along on the recording.  Will send translation upon request.)

Currite, currite, populi, currite,
psallite, psallite tympanis, psallite,
vocibus dicite alleluia.
Quia hodie celebremus diem festum Sancti Maria,
cuius animam paradisum possidet.

Currite, currite, populi, currite,
psallite, psallite tympanis, psallite,
vocibus dicite o sancte Maria, sancte prudentissime,
tibi laus, tibi gloria,
tibi amor, tibi victoria.

Ora pro nobis Deum, o sancte Maria.
ut nostris precibus mereamur
introire in regnum caelorum.

Currite, currite, populi, currite,
psallite, psallite tympanis, psallite,
vocibus dicite alleluia.

After the concert, someone suggested that I was there mostly because I didn’t want to see all the time and money spent on taking Anne Mei to lessons go to waste.  I had never thought of it that way.  What I don’t want to see wasted is Anne Mei’s talent.  She may not have the passion that it takes to become a professional musician, but she has the ability and the emotional intelligence to make great music.  Her 2011 recital performance of the Arioso from Bach’s Cantata BWV 156 stunned her cello teacher, who had not heard such depth of feeling in rehearsal.  He also knew how much Anne Mei liked working with his wife around the same time on the fast violin piece the Preludio from Bach’s Partita No. 3 BWV 1006.  I sensed that Anne Mei was playing this cello adagio for her mother, who had died a little over a year before.

That thought brings me to the other reasons why I hope that Anne Mei continues to play in ensembles like this one, and like her mother continues to find companionship and comfort in making music throughout her adult life.  While it can be unhealthy and misleading to say that something should be done because that’s what the deceased loved one would have wanted, in this case there can be no doubt about Laura’s passion for Anne Mei’s music.  Elsewhere I have mentioned how on her death bed Laura would call to me if she did not hear Anne Mei practicing, or if she didn’t like what she then heard.  More importantly, both Anne Mei and I feel that as she plays, we open into Laura’s presence.  That’s what I wanted to share on Tuesday.

Not that there were any viola solos or that I could hear the viola distinctly during the concert.  Tuesday’s performance reminded me that playing a viola in an ensemble embodies the two key virtues in the Confucian system: loyalty and consideration.  The characters for both words incorporate zhōng 中, one of the most common words in Chinese. In fact the name for China is zhōng guó 中 國, the middle country. The viola inhabits the “middle kingdom” in an ensemble.

In their translation of the Confucian classic Zhongyong (literally zhōng-work), Ames and Hall translate zhōng as “focus” and “equilibrium,” precisely what the viola can provide to a piece of music.



  1. Of course you can hear her. That’s what violists do: listen to each of the other instruments. Happy Mothers Day to you.

  2. Thank you for sharing the recordings. It makes me so happy to know that Anne Mei is playing. I hear her loud and clear! Best wishes to you both.

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