Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Tota pulchra est"

I’ve been listening a lot to Maurine Duruflé’s Quatre Motets sur des Thèmes Grégoriens. This site discusses the short pieces: This site, in turn, discusses some of Duruflé’s life and career.

My daughter Emily performed with the Summit Choral Society for several years. The choir performed Duruflé’s Requiem on one occasion and Emily’s choir frequently performed the motet “Tota pulchra est” during their European tour in 2007. I remember a group of us assembling at the St. Nicholas Church in Prague at 2 PM to hear the choir, after we’d escaped our relentless Czech tour guide so we could dash away and find an ATM (since our Euros weren’t good in Prague) and a soda before the concert. And then what a blessed hour of sacred music by the choir as Americans and Czechs sat in the church together and listened!

Duruflé’s comparatively tiny body of works makes me wonder which is better: if you’re creative, should you produce a lot and, among your output, you have a few particularly wonderful works, or should you polish and polish what you’d done until it’s nearly perfect? The risk of purusing perfection is that you end up with nothing because you were never satisfied. But Duruflé’s compositions are well-respected in the repertoire.

Memories, based on experiences which you had no time to polish, don’t have to be "perfect" to be perfect, like the memory of us running around Old Town Prague and enjoying a lovely concert on a warm afternoon as our family and the others toured Europe.

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