Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sunday's thoughts

Today marked the 90th birthday of a Seattle musical icon, Vilem Sokol. My wife and I were happy to take part in the Mass at St. James Cathedral that honored him. No less than seven daughters of his were playing in the orchestra, each one an accomplished musician. I hope this surprise made the birthday boy happy. Without Mr. Sokol the Seattle Youth Symphony would have never developed into the important, large institution it is today, and a lot of violinists would not have had their all-important early training. When the time comes for him to leave this world, I’m sure there is an orchestra of little cherubs waiting for him in Heaven.

As I have expressed before, I am no great fan of organized religion. I don’t like to be told how to worship our Creator; my religion is something personal in my heart. However, there are a lot of people out there who feel differently, and prefer to have the thinking done for them; the sheep need their shepherd. This congregation has added an element that makes it easy to feel close to the Almighty: first rate, beautiful music as an integral part of the service. Music is one language that unites all people and fabulous singing combined with splendid organ playing makes it possible to escape this world’s worries and troubles, and to have a truly spiritual experience.

While getting ready in the morning I discovered that all of my white dress shirts have become too big for me. I have lost over 30 lbs (15 kg) in weight, and my neck has shrunk as a result. My method was a simple one: I lost my appetite, and the pounds disappeared. I’m still working on the name for this diet, so that I can market it one day. This one is guaranteed to work on anyone.

One thought led to another and I remembered a concert tour to Warsaw, Poland, in the early 1970s, as a member of a small faculty group from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, which included our dear friend Ralf Gothoni, the present Music Director of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra. Poland was still very much a hard-line communist country at that time, and a consumer didn’t have much choice. Our guests took us to a famous duck restaurant in the rebuilt Old City. One didn’t have any say as to what part of the duck ended up on the plate: with my luck I got the neck. Not much meat around that gullet, I tell you.

It was an interesting trip and among other things I learned that the wife of the assistant dean of my school had six toes on each foot. No, this knowledge didn’t come through personal discovery; her singer husband was rather proud of her being different. Then one night there was loud knocking on the hotel room’s door at around 2 in the morning. I got up to see what the reason was, and there stood the desk clerk from the lobby with a voluptuous woman dressed in a fur. I tried to tell him that he must have made a mistake, but he spoke only Polish and persistently tried to push the smiling lady into the room. Finally my ex-wife woke up and came to find out what all the commotion was about, and the visitors quickly disappeared. No, this is no Polish joke.