EDITORIAL: Recent concerts help turn pain into beauty

Peter Gillette

Sunday’s “Concert of Healing and Remembrance” was a much-needed and beautifully performed expression of the positive power of human creativity. The power of the music is testament to the importance of music and musicians in these times especially. Sunday was a dizzying day indeed, with the launch of the U.S. counterattack. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, in his convocation Tuesday, spoke about how a new mythology—a sort of cultural renaissance—is what America needs.

Sunday’s concert was executed with a grace too often lacking in our society. It was two hours set apart from time, expressing pain but, above all, using that pain to create something beautiful. Despite its elegiac nature, the focus was on expressing the confusion and pain that lurks beyond understanding. Lawrence student Kris Shaffer’s original composition for horn quartet was a perfect illustration. At alternate points expressing grief and anger, the piece surged forward, seeming to be breaking out of the bounds of sorrow.

Despite ending with a stirring, mass-choir rendition of “America the Beautiful,” the concert was not overly patriotic. The concert was not fast-paced. It was not attention-grabbing. The effect was to appreciate required concentration, a facet that Marsalis would indeed say is all too vacant in our culture and generation.

Marsalis spoke almost religiously about the power of the blues. He was not lucky enough to hear contralto Laura Snyder opening Sunday’s concert completely alone singing “Amazing Grace.” What soul shone through the entire Chapel. Just as so much hate could come from a few people, how much more human power was shown Sunday in the Chapel.

It takes basic flight training and a hateful heart to kill 5,000 people, but it takes soul, practice, and concentration to create something uniquely beautiful and uniquely human.