from N’hamp

I am at Smith College, my alma mater, to join in a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony on Saturday. It is a memorial concert for Iva Dee Hiatt, legendary conductor and faculty member, who passed away from ALS in 1980 when I was a sophomore. It’s a privilege to be on campus to participate in this concert.

I arrived yesterday and had a wonderful lunch with professor emeritus RP, who was my theory and composition professor and major advisor. I followed that up with a lovely dinner with L, a friend from the class of ’81 who lives locally.

I know I haven’t been posting much lately – and there is so much to write about, including the continuing tragedy of gun violence in the US and the first set of indictments of former president DT – but life has been hectic and is about to become more so. I’ll weigh in as I’m able.

Saying good-bye to a friend

Today was Peter’s memorial service.  I had written about Peter here and, this afternoon, we were all able to say our final good-byes and to celebrate his life among us and the eternal life to which he has been called.

Although Peter’s final illness was short, he was able to participate in the planning of the memorial, both musically and liturgically. The service was one of the most meaningful I have ever experienced and included some favorite Scripture passages, including 1 Corinthians 13.

The choir was made up of past and current members of the Trinity Episcopal choir and of Harpur Chorale, the most select choral group at Binghamton University which Peter had conducted since 1998. He had been organist/choirmaster at Trinity Church since 1981.  Also participating were the remaining members of Early On, a quintet that Peter helped form several years ago

Tellingly, the organ was silent for most of the service. The program explained:

 “In tribute to Peter’s many years as Church Musician at Trinity the organ will not be used during the first part of the service. The return of the organ at the end of the service symbolizes the enduring nature of music.”

The organ first played after communion for the commendation anthem, which was “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”, an arrangement that Peter had done of the tune St. Columba for choir and organ. It was so moving for all of us. You could tell that some of the choir members were struggling to go on, but together, they were able to continue.

We all sat and listened to the postlude, which was Olivier Messiaen’s “Dieu Parmi Nous” (God Among Us), the last movement of The Nativity of Our Lord.  The organ professor from the University played, but I couldn’t help thinking about how Peter played it. While the professor played it well technically, Peter played with more feeling and nuance and with a profound understanding of how to coax subtle shadings of sound from the 1960 Casavant organ. I thought about how often I had stood next to the console, observing Peter playing and turning pages for him, absorbing everything I could about service playing from him.

After the last reverberations of Messiaen died away, there was a profound silence in the full church. I believe we were all giving thanks for Peter’s years with us and feeling his absence.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine : et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Grant them eternal rest, Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

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