This is a post about love. Specifically, it’s a post looking back at our February concert, “Lover’s Tears.” We presented this concert as an exploration of love in all its forms, and there was plenty of love to be found in the repertoire we played. Janacek’s “Intimate Letters,” for example, is a musical love letter that reaches dizzying heights of romantic passion. Dowland’s “Lachrimae Amantis” (“Lover’s Tears”) comes at love from a more restrained, Shakespearean place, yet is also full of dissonances and major/minor shifts that, to me, capture love’s aching uncertainty.
A cynnical part of me was skeptical of doing a love-themed concert in February. We live in a culture that celebrates and commodifies certain narratives of “romantic love” while ignoring others. What about love’s other manifestations: friendship, community, artistic passion, self-love? Our February community partners, the participants of the Life Songs project, brought a healthy dose of self-love to our Saturday show.
For Life Songs, we partnered with the Fenway Health's LGBTQ Aging Project and Ethos to co-write original songs with LGBT elders about their life journey. We split into groups and worked with three participants, using the prompt “A letter to your younger self.” rMy group's songwriting partner was warm, funny, and frank; he spoke more openly about tough topics than I often do with my closest friends. When we asked him what questions he'd had as a young man, and how he would answer them now, he recalled a time when homosexuality was considered illegal and diagnosed as a mental illness. He had wondered whether he should join the priesthood, what do to about the draft, and whether he could pursue a teaching career. Many of these questions and answers made it into the final songs, which two of our songwriters performed at the Palaver concert. One song’s refrain, “However safe or unsafe it can be, it’s crucial to be yourself,” stuck with me as an affirmation of authenticty and self-love. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to be yourself, especially onstage, and this is something we can all be inspired by, no matter who we are.