Thursday, February 18, 2010

Transfiguration and Sondheim

I've been away from the blog for a couple of days, but plenty of ideas have been bouncing around the back of my mind. I've been thinking about Pastor's sermon from Transfiguration Sunday, in which he discussed the contrast between peak moments in life and the quotidian existence between them.

Musically, the church year certainly has an example of such a contrast. Between the peak celebrations of Christmas (or, if you'd prefer, Epiphany) and Easter we have a long valley of non-descript Sundays and the trudge through Lent. Even though there is some fantastic music during this time of year, they aren't tunes that the average person can sing in the same way as the songs of the major holidays.

It reminds me as well of the gaps between concerts or performances. Hearing the St. Olaf Choir or seeing a great Broadway musical can provide moments of beauty and musical epiphanies that sustain and provide inspiration for weeks and the next opportunity to hear such beauty again.

Living up to my motto that a showtune exists for every occasion, Stephen Sondheim wrote beautiful lyrics on this topic in the musical "Into the Woods." After a magical 'moment' and before returning home to her daily life, the Baker's Wife sings these words:

Oh if life were made of 'moments,'
Even now and then a bad one.
But if life were only 'moments,'
Then you'd never know you had one.
Must it all be either less or more;
Either plain or grand?
Is it always 'or'?
Is it never 'and'?
That's what woods are for!
For those moments in the woods.


  1. Reading the news, I thought of another good example of a peak moment versus the mundane day-to-day work of life. Inauguration day may be a beautiful celebration of hope, but the daily slog of governing is much more complicated and messy. Perhaps the importance of the peak moments and speeches is to help remind us of the possibilities, even when things look bleak.

  2. Another example is the school experience, where we go from the excitement of the first day to the giddyness of the last day, with a lot of work in between.