Saturday, July 15, 2006

New Orleans: Coda and Capo

New Orleans, Louisiana

Six summers ago, my brother and I wept in each other's arms in Dodge City, Kansas.

We were parting at the end of a journey where we had found our grandfather's roots, roots that extended back to Delaware and the first Peterson's arrival around 1638.

Our lives had been changed on the hot plains of southwest Kansas, and we wanted to hold on and savor the grace of the moment.

Different ones had tears at the end of last night's performance at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in New Orleans.

We all wanted to hold on.

Yet, it is time for this tour to end. As someone remarked, “It feels like we've been down here forever!”

In five minutes, a third of our group will leave for the airport and Minnesota. The rest of us will follow tomorrow.

Finding a New Orleans venue - any kind of venue - had been problematic until very recently. Fifteen churches had said “no” before The Rev. Susan Gaumer at St. Andrew's said, “Yes, of course.”

Afterwards, Susan told James Davies that it all came together for her with a single image: 102 singers massed beneath a 16-foot figure of a resurrected Christ, arms raised in blessing.

In many ways, this was the best performance even though the venue imposed technical limitations.

In one of the week's countless sweet moments, the mother of tenor Michael Lahr flew down to hear his solo in “Michael's Letter to Mama,” by Armistead Maupin.

Several other Minnesotans joined us for the finale.

Acts of creation are acts of faith. This is what gives the arts their intrinsic value.

Some of us are called to create human life. All of us are called to live life daily.

In an interview on the bus on Thursday, Richard Long observed that “When a part of you is smothered, a part of you dies.”

Large portions of New Orleans were smothered, and much of it will die. Many people who left will never return. Those who remain have a hard journey.

However, I feel no guilt about our boutique hotel digs in the French Quarter: we are bringing much needed cold cash to a place that will need tons of it for decades.

The city will grow again. What was not broken will be stronger.

The Great Southern Sing Out Tour has been eight days of collective worship, of living life daily. The grace of the moment, the faces, names, and places, will abide with us always.

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