|On Bastille Day (from a Bernie Kreger photo)|
|Tom is one of the Kroks singing here.|
We stayed in touch after college, even sang together in another Boston-area choir for a while. Regardless of where we were and what was going on, we always talked about music--from our pasts, in our presents.
|Cambridge Rindge & Latin School|
The transformation of our friendship was complete a few years later--again, thanks to Tom's efforts. Because one of my professional roles was to support teacher colleagues, I had gotten into the work habit of listening a lot to others and saying little about myself. Over time, however, this professional habit had made its way into my personal life. It wasn't that I said nothing personal; it was more that I pared down what I could have said, tied up its loose ends rather than exposed them, and often got myself out of the conversational way as quickly as I could.
|Tom and Scott in Annapolis|
What a gift. And therefore what a loss.
That's why all those songs the Kroks and the Collegium Musicum sang about dead or soon-to-be-dead young men have been playing in my mind since last Tuesday: the traditional "Danny Boy," "Momma, Look Sharp" from 1776, William Billings' "David's Lamentation"---and, most of all, "Anthony O'Daly," the second of Samuel Barber's Reincarnations. I'm not sure if it's the wordless wails or the the last three lines of its text*** that most make "Anthony O'Daly" the invisible musical badge I'm wearing this week: " . . . , after you/ There is nothing to do,/ "There is nothing but grief." But I keep hearing it in my mind's ear.
Two days ago, when I began writing this blog, I'd imagined ending it right here with "Reader, 'There is nothing but grief.'" But then came yesterday, and another transformation, this one through song.
|The Boston Synagogue|
A short time later, the rabbi mentioned that the Sabbath we were marking was known as "Shabbat Shirah," or "Sabbath [of] song" שבת שירה because the triumphant song the children of Israel sang after their successful flight out of slavery and Egypt was included in the day's Torah portion. Since the children of Israel almost immediately began complaining about their plights as non-slaves in the wilderness--"'If only we had died by the hand of LORD in the land of Egypt, . . .! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve . . . !'" (Exodus 16:3)--the rabbi wanted us to consider when songs express faith that already exists, and when they help move people toward the faith they don't yet have.
|By Scott Ketcham*****|
Imagining him in that "field of light and love" back then had made me feel I was actually doing something for Tom. Imagining him there now reminds me that he's moved beyond the clutches of illness and disease into a place of peace and love. I don't like his being gone from my life, from our lives, from this good, beautiful world any better; I probably never will. But at least now, "Anthony O'Daly" is alternating with "Goin' Up Yonder."****** It's a start.
* I can't remember the actual name of this great course taught by J.B Jackson about the American visual environment.
** Tom was a History and Literature concentrator writing about Thomas Wolfe--I think specifically about You Can't Go Home Again, but I'm not sure.
*** The text of "Anthony O'Daly" is a James Stephens poem by the same name.
**** I actually mentioned this in a blog post I wrote some years back in which I talked some about Tom, though not by name: http://soalready.blogspot.com/2016/05/kim-phuc-in-perspective-reflection-6-on.html
****** Neither the Kroks nor the Collegium ever sang this song, but Chaka Khan did at Aretha Franklin's funeral.