Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday bright and dark

People wrote hopeful messages on old CDs, and hung them on the fence of our little country church in the middle of Harlem. They flutter and catch the light like irridescent wind chimes. They're quite beautiful as you walk by.

This afternoon the man and I are going to see the Soweto Gospel Choir. The tickets are an early Christmas gift from my cousin. And yesterday afternoon, my own choir performed the first of our three Christmas concerts, this one in Queens. It was a standing room only crowd, with familiar faces and an average age somewhere above seventy, despite the little kids on the front row who talked non stop throughout the performance, and fell asleep in the final medley of carols. I felt so tired afterward. My whole body ached, and I climbed into bed by seven with my Kindle and settled down to binge watch the second season of Ozark on Netflix.

That series is dark. It starts out like a cross between Breaking Bad and Weeds, but there is something unrelieved about it, which makes me realize that both Breaking Bad and Weeds gave us a little room to breathe, a few characters we could relax with, sympathize with, root for. Ozark, not so much. The actors are all first rate—Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Skylar Gaertner—but everything just keeps happening to them, they're always reacting to horrific circumstances, and in the end it just feels like endlessly retreading a played out plot line, and no one, with the exception of the son, Jonah, truly evolves. The story is bleak and suspenseful, but somehow not bold. When I got to the last episode of season two, I felt relieved that it was over. I hear there will be a third season, but I might not watch.


The concert was fantastic. At one point the group did a tribute to Nelson Mandela, with haunting melodies and weaving harmonies, their voices soaring, and I looked over at my husband and saw the line of a tear glistening on his cheek and he smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder and I leaned my head back against his arm and thought how I will never take for granted the sheer joy and wonder of being able to share something so transcendent with my love.

The night was one wonderful arrangement after another, but my other favorite piece was their blow-the-roof-off rendition of "Amazing Grace." I can't even find the words to do it justice. The night was freezing cold, the walk to the concert hall across campus was long and winding, the house was packed and the man and I felt like sardines in seats a little too narrow for our girth, but it was all so worth it. Every person sang solo on one or more songs, and every single one of them could have been Aretha Franklin or Barry White if they'd been born in a different time and place. But they were born in Soweto, South Africa, and they came together for this magnificent chorus, and I was grateful to be in their audience, to feel vibrating through every cell their extraordinary sound.


  1. I can't believe this but I think that choir is going to be in Tallahassee this week. Will I go see them?
    Probably not. And will regret mightily that I didn't.
    I wish I could have heard YOUR choir.
    I can't bear to watch bleak series. I just can't.

  2. the Soweto concert sounds wonderful. I don't watch much TV. when I have time to just sit and relax I read but then we don't subscribe to any of the services that stream TV shows.

  3. Beautiful photo, and the music sounds wonderful from what you write. T think I'll pass on that series though, way too much darkness in the world as it is. I'm so glad you're enjoying the season.

  4. There is so much un- and under-recognized talent in the world. It sounds like this group is bringing some of those gifts to the fore.

  5. I could hear their voices and music in your words. Thank you for that.

  6. Thank you for your hopeful messages, always in the context of the love you and your husband share. You inspired me to find the Soweto Gospel Choir on YouTube and listen to them as I write.

  7. I just couldn't get into Ozark, and your description/review perfectly says why. Just way, way too relentless in its darkness. I so envy you your singing -- I have a secret desire to do the same, but I just don't know where to make it happen! And that concert sounds like it was fantastic -- I remember years ago watching an amazing documentary about the role music played in South Africa in the people's march toward freedom from apartheid, but for the life of me I can't remember the title!

  8. I would love to have heard your choir and the Soweto Gospel Choir, that is music I would like. I haven't been drawn to watch Ozark and think I will give it a miss. I just discovered Call the Midwife and am enjoying that; more upbeat!

  9. I agree that Ozark ran off the rails a bit in the second season. We watched all of it but I think we might be done, too.