Something for the Pain

September 29th : My first concert as an official member and cellist of Palaver Strings. The week leading up to the show was packed with rehearsals and planning, and I was feeling extremely fortunate to be part of such a warm and loving group of people. I recently made the big move from New York to Boston, and I have been welcomed into the community with nothing but support. As excited as I was to perform at the Armory, the tone of the evening was serious. Obviously, the state of current affairs in our country is upsetting to say the least. For me personally, I have found it very hard to make sense of all the violence and hate, and near impossible to find a ray of light to follow.

Unlike the majority of concerts, which are designed with an emotional arc in mind, every piece on our program, “Something For The Pain,” was dark and heavy. This is not to say that the pieces aren’t beautiful, but they are beautiful within the darkness. The second piece we played was Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 arranged for string orchestra, a deeply haunting piece that is dedicated to victims of fascism throughout the world.

I feel that our job as musicians is to enable our audience to feel the things they need to feel. I think a lot of us have been going crazy lately watching the news, hearing about all the daily tragedies and violations of our country, and feeling completely at a loss for how to cope or what to do to make things better. Yet, we’re all expected to get up in the morning, brush our teeth, and go to work as if everything is normal. As if it’s normal that the president of the United States of America is waging war with North Korea on twitter. As if it’s normal that our government, which prides itself on a foundation of liberty, justice, and equality, seems to care more about money than keeping our citizens safe from gun violence. Due to societal norms, we are not really allowed to feel the depth of our pain, or to react to these things in realtime. There is often no time or space to truly grieve or come to terms with the reality we live in. Music, and art of all kinds, can provide this space for us. Everyone is different when it comes to dealing with emotions, but sometimes the only cure for the blues is the blues itself. This energy was there on Friday night, and despite the sadness, it felt good to be part of a group, a community of like-minded, sane people who share common, decent values and recognize the insanity and horrors that take place around us every day. 

On Saturday, October 1st, just one day after our concert, the deadliest US mass shooting in modern history took place in Las Vegas. I don’t know what to say about this other than that it must be acknowledged and remembered. It is an absolutely tragic and incomprehensible event. One thing I have admired so much about Palaver over the years is its ability to remain hopeful and determined in the face of devastation. Palaver wants to make the world a better place. But sometimes, before bracing for the fight, we must take a moment to connect with the pain underneath. We must remember what it is we’re fighting for.


- Jennie

Photo Credit: Robert Leger and Nate Martin