A Letter from Steve Plank
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
Tonight as I sit at my desk and compose my thoughts, my mind drifts to those familiar words from Ecclesiastes, words that remind us that the easy and the hard, the pleasant and the sad, the light and the dark, all have their time, all have "their season." And while there are times that we eagerly anticipate and times that surely we dread, neither our eagerness nor our dread change the fact that things have "their season," their time. With this autumn, some changes at St. Paul's have "their season," and with them, so too does my long tenure in the choirmaster's seat at the corner of Fairmount and Coventry.
The tenure of twenty-five years has been blessed by so many things: cherished friendships, a shared musical life, and the unshakeable bonds that are formed when one sings, prays, worships, and loves together. These wonderful things, treasured deep in my heart, came into my life "in their season," and for that and for each and every one of you, I am so grateful.
My dear old friend, Karel, reminded the choir and me the other day that "we are all forever connected." To that I can only say ano jistě, můj starý přítel (yes indeed, my old friend). I think were I to challenge Ecclesiastes it might be on precisely this: that the abiding nature of these connections seems far beyond the idea of any season. For that I am grateful, too.
I came to St. Paul's in 1996 thinking I would know almost nobody. But the "small world" discoveries soon seemed abundant. I did already know Karel from the museum and the fact that we had gone to the same graduate school where, unsurprisingly, his reputation still lingered in my day! Hearing Ernie Petrey chatting in Tucker Hall one morning and recognizing in his accent the sound of home, I quickly discovered that our families were from the same small mill town in Gaston County, NC. What a joy it was to look out in the nave one day and see William and Susan Vodrey, who had been my students in London in 1985 (where yes, they became an "item"). Rich Israel and I discovered we had lived in St. Louis at the same time, unbeknownst to each other, but we found that we had important friends in common, and had even been at the same cathedral service where one of those friends was installed as Dean . . . maybe we even sat on the same pew! Upon discovering where and when Nick White was ordained, it became clear that I quite likely had played trumpet at his ordination service. Harold Lewis's organist in Pittsburgh was my former student, and he had an uncanny knack of being able to predict what hymns Harold might pick on any given Sunday. And on and on it goes. Karel's point is that we are forever connected through our shared experiences; and these small world experiences here—they bring such a smile—remind me of some of the ways in which our lives intertwine. For that, I am grateful, as well.
I wonder how many of us learned the Ecclesiastes text from Pete Seeger's popularizing of it as a folk song, especially in the 1965 version by the Byrds. (You didn't expect me to go there, did you?) Seeger kept Ecclesiastes intact, but added the phrase "turn, turn, turn." (For years I had assumed that was Biblical, too!) The present moment is one of turning. The old Shaker Hymn, "Simple Gifts" reminds us that "to turn, turn, will be our delight till by turning, turning we come round right." In the sound of our turning, I hear not "good-bye," nor can I say it; I hear only my heart saying "thank you," for I am indeed grateful for you all and our many years together.
Tags: Music and Art