Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Promises and the Nez Perce


By JOELLEN COLLINS

After a highly charged and productive weekend from June 22-24 at Lapwai and the area surrounding the Nez Perce Reservation, I was ready to come home. Many of the other singers in the Caritas Chorale, the members of the Boise Symphony and guests for the event had spent much of the allotted time together in travel, by car or bus. We, along with our director, Dick Brown, the cantata's composer, David Alan Earnest, the librettist Diane Peavey, and the narrator, Page Klune, were all tired from the effort to create what turned out to be an inspirational performance of a new choral work called "Nez Perce: Promises." None of us regretted the three days we had spent away from our regular lives, nor the hard work we had given in putting together this magnificent, though daunting, choral work.

At any rate, on the Sunday morning we were to return to the Wood River Valley, I just wanted to go home, retrieve my doggies, prepare for my teaching the next day, and indulge in a good night's sleep. In addition, I needed some quiet time alone to talk with my daughters who, just six days earlier, had lost their father, who passed away in Santa Monica, Calif. I had even considered canceling my participation in the weekend because of the pressures I was feeling in the days before we were scheduled to perform. Although happy I had honored my commitment, I was ready to make the eight-hour trip home as quickly as possible. The weekend was sufficiently rewarding that I told myself not to be in such a rush, but my other concerns were intruding on the thought of simply relaxing with my bus-mates, working a crossword or trying to read one of my neglected New Yorker magazines while reeling around highway curves.

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So when we climbed aboard our big bus and were reminded that we were going to stop at Lapwai Park to share a brief worship service with some of our Nez Perce hosts, I checked my watch and grumbled silently about the time involved. Thank goodness I didn't complain aloud (my better instincts would have prevented me from doing so anyway) and, instead, relaxed with the thought that it was a good thing we were going to. Thank goodness I didn't miss the modest service.

That Sunday morning was especially lush, with the tall ponderosa pines shading a verdant, lovely spot where our chairs had been assembled. The service, conducted by members of the tribe, was brief and quite moving. Many of the Caritas singers joined in the songs, the light breeze carrying our worn voices under a sky lit by the morning sun. One of the most dynamic moments was when a Nez Perce leader sang (in the tribal language) a song passed down in a miraculous way through his grandfather. It was a special time, reinforced by the sense that our Nez Perce friends had appreciated our effort and that we could connect with them in this way.

I hesitate to say, because of the cliches that are often uttered after an encounter with a different way of life, that there was a definite sense of spiritual strength during those beautiful moments. Yes, I even felt a little bit of healing of my grief over my ex-husband Marty's death, a loss to me of one of the finest men I have ever known. I thought about the epitaph he once had confided in me he wished to have on a tombstone somewhere: "Here lies a decent man." Seeing the abundance of decent people surrounding me was a positive reminder of the blessing I have had with his being the father of my children and a constant booster to me and of the many good experiences left for those of us still here to enjoy.

We will again be presenting this exquisite original work in Ketchum and Hailey on July 14 and 15, free to those who wish to experience the rich music and poignant message of this work. I wish I could also share with my friends the emotions I felt during that sweet-sounding Sunday service. I received a measure of comfort through being present in such an edifying celebration of our camaraderie and the ways in which we all are able to connect with each other and with our surroundings. I'll sit on a bus for hours anytime I can be part of such an event!




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