Some of you may know that I work for composer John Adams as music copyist. He has written a large Christmas oratorio called El Niño - performed this weekend at Disney Concert Hall. (Hear a 7 minute excerpt here.)
Also, you may have deduced from this blog that I'm not a fan of Christmas music. Not at all.
So it might come as a surprise that the very end of this piece moves me to tears. Not just teary eyes - but big drops running down my cheeks.
This has happened on several occasions including Sunday afternoon. The first time I heard El Niño - at the U.S. premiere in San Francisco - I was so moved that I was unable to talk because of uncontrollable tears. This is as baffling as it is embarassing - hey, I'm supposed to be a hardened professional musician. No other music has ever had this effect on me.
The entire work (nearly 2 hours long) ends with a simple 6/8 tune sung by a children's chorus. Just before the end the orchestra drowns the chorus out - but they reappear accompanied only by a guitar. Maybe my reaction involves the contrast of simplicity with the previous complexity.
It does give me hope that there's something fundamental and honest and important and universal to be expressed musically during the season. It can't all be mindless. Can it?
Plus I think it quite refreshing to find references in El Niño to a cave full of dragons. Or a street massacre in Mexico.