Monday, June 27, 2016

Reflections: Father's Day, KC Symphony, Beethoven, Fear, Joy, and taking time to look at what's right in front of me.

Last weekend the Kansas City Symphony gave their final concert of the season. The Beethoven 9th Symphony was on the program and I had been looking forward to it all year. I needed it. I needed it for my soul. I have been carrying some deep emotions for many months and I know that I need to deal with them. Hearing the Beethoven 9th performed in Helzberg Hall would surely be the therapy I was.
The night before (Friday), my family took me to a Royals game. They surprised me with club level seats and a parking pass. And Friday nights at the K feature a fireworks display after the game. It was a great evening. It was wonderful to be with both of my sons and my wife.The Royals won the game resoundingly. Shortly after the game, the lights dimmed and the fireworks began. The darkness came alive with color and explosions. But I could not keep my eyes on the fireworks. I was sitting on the end of our row and we were all turned slightly to the right to see, which meant that I was looking right at Cheryl, Ethan and Jack's back. The colorful lights created a halo effect over them. Right there, in front of me, was my family. My greatest love. My greatest accomplishment in this life. My greatest joy....standing right there in front of me. I didn't watch the fireworks....I watched them. I gave thanks to God for them. I prayed that this moment would never end, though I knew it would.

The next night my mom and I went to the KC Symphony concert. Like I said, I had been looking forward to this since last Fall. The Beethoven 9th Symphony is such a transcendent work. I knew it was going to be awesome in the hands of Maestro Stern and this amazing group of musicians and singers. But first we were treated to another work of Beethoven, his Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Cantata for Chorus and Orchestra op. 112. I had not heard this before, but I knew of it. Several months ago, I heard Felix Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. It has become one of my "new favorites" for the time being. It is simply beautiful. And while reading about it, I learned that Beethoven had also written a work by the same name based on a poem by Goethe, but I had not taken the time to listen to it yet. How lucky to be able to hear it for the fist time with a choir of 120 voices as one thanks to the Kansas City Symphony Chorus, and the power of the KC Symphony. Next on the program was the second symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich. Again, this was new music to me. While I have heard most of his other symphonies, this is one I had never heard. Maestro Stern spoke briefly before it was played and explained to us how this piece is connected to the other works of the evening when on the surface it seemed so out of place. He spoke about humanity...humans trying to make sense of their world and to do something to make it better. After hearing this symphony, I totally got what he was saying. This very unusual symphony did fit right into the program. After the intermission, it was time for the 9th. Maestro Stern dedicated this performance to the victims and families of the Orlando massacre. His words were powerful and heartfelt. The performance was too. I noticed that the bass section had grown by one bass. (seven total) You can never have too much bass I've always said. Along with our cello section, our bottom end is a force to be reckoned strong, rich and powerful.
My head was spinning at this point. 120 voices singing together as one is enough to blow the roof off of any hall. Beethoven's music...this music....seems to channel our very humanity through sound waves. My heart was in my throat. Tears of joy filled my eyes. And as the finale reached its crescendo, I looked to my left and saw my mother crying tears of joy...of life....and just like the night before, I found myself stepping outside of the moment, and I watched her and thought about everything she had done for me...given to me. And if that wasn't enough, she had mentioned right before the performance how much my dad would have loved this orchestra...this hall..and that she had dreams that he was conducting from above the suspended ceiling that hangs over the stage. My dad passed away in 2006, and as I have mentioned in this blog many times, he loved music..classical music, more than anyone I have ever known. I too could see him this evening and I know he loved what he was hearing.
So back to Friday my oldest son Jack. As I watched him, now almost 20, tall, handsome and strong, I was still dealing with what happened on February 13th. I have decided to write about it as I process the emotions that still challenge me. He had knee surgery on February 6th. All went well and he was back at school on the 13th when he began to feel bad. Over the next several hours he began to struggle breathing. One of his friends took him to the emergency room where they discovered he had blood clots in his leg and both of his lungs. At 12:15 am, I jumped in the car and drove to St. Charles to be with him. Blood clots can be fatal...and often are. I felt so helpless as I raced across I-70 in the middle of the night. "Hold on Jack" I kept shouting out loud. When I arrived and found my way to his room, he was in bed with tubes and monitors attached to him. But he opened his eyes and saw me and I took his hand and told him I was here for him...that he was going to be OK. I told him how much I loved him. He was in the hospital for 3 days. Thankfully he got to the hospital in time to be given blood thinners. And thankfully, this was not his time to go. It was his time to live. I was so scared. I stayed with him the entire time he was in the hospital and brought him home when he was discharged.

The fear and emotion I felt that week are still with me. I know how fragile I am, how fragile we all are. But when it's our children who are sick or hurt, there is no preparing for the emotions that we face.
I knew that the Beethoven 9th performed live would help me deal with my emotions....that's what I meant when I said "I needed this." Beethoven is able to say things through his music that no one else can say. And humans playing his music in front of you is more powerful than anything that comes through a speaker at home or in your car. This is medicine that has to be in the same room with you as its administered.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day. My song for Steve (my dad).

Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there. My dad passed away in 2006 after a long battle with diabetes and leukemia. The very first entry of this blog from February 2014 tells the story about my Dad (James Stephen Hazlett) and how he opened the door to classical music for me. For this I will always be grateful.
My dad was least that was the running joke in our family. He loved classical music, most of all Bruckner and Mahler. He owned more versions of each Bruckner and Mahler Symphony than anyone else on the planet I believe. I used to get on his case about why he did not listen to Bach or Vivaldi??? And how could he turn his back on Elvis, Sinatra and the Beatles? He wore the same clothes, the same watch and the same shoes throughout his life. We thought he was dull....but it was with respect and affection that we said this. He loved crew cuts, chopped steak, watches, Law and Order, Pizza Hut, Kung Pao Beef, Starbucks espresso, and Paris, France.
I deviated from my classical music path in my early teens...I discovered the Beatles, started playing the guitar, discovered jazz, started playing the upright bass and so on. I wanted to write songs and perform in public. I wrote this song shortly after he passed but never shared it with anyone except my mom and sister. But today I am sharing it with you.
Happy Father's day dad. I miss you always.