Duruflé Concert and Family

Written to Chorale before our concert last night; says what I have to say at this time: I am back from Evansville, and ready to conduct our concert. Just now I actually spoke with Kaia on the phone—they are letting her come up out of the sedation now, removing some tubes, having her breathe on her own. Her physical health and strength are a remarkable gift-- this morning I saw her at 5 a.m., just before I went to the airport, and would not have believed I would hear actual words cone out of her. She is so vital, so resilient.

Every parent fears and dreads the phone call I answered Wednesday afternoon. When I heard that voice from the hospital in southern Illinois, I thought the world stood still. “Are you the parent of Kaia Tammen?” And when I finally saw her, late Thursday afternoon, after a total of eleven grueling hours of surgery, involving five different doctors as well as an army of support staff, I thought I would not be able to bear what I saw. I am so grateful to everyone—to the man who discovered their bodies by the side of the road and turned them over, cleared their air passages so they would not drown or suffocate; to the rescue teams who brought them safely to the trauma center in Evansville; to the wonderful surgeons and nursing staff; to Tambra Black, who drive Esther the six hours down to Evansville and stayed with her, fed her, drove her around, for three days; to Sharon for taking over conducting duties Thursday night; to all of you, as well as our other friends and family, who have offered your support and prayers and time and energy, taking care of our boys, our dogs, the arrangements for the coming concert. Never once have we felt alone, during this terrifying time.

James Baird, the father of Julia Baird, the other surviving girl, said a wonderful thing to us yesterday afternoon. He had been in frequent contact with his family’s rabbi, who had said to him, “Remember, James, there is no house fire prayer in Judaism.” When one sees and smells the smoke, one is not allowed to pray, dear lord, let that be someone else’s house, not mine. We really are all in this together—none of us is an island. Faith’s death diminishes not only her mother, and her friends, but all of us. And so does any death—in Gaza, in Bagdad, in Peshawar, in Uganda, anywhere.

As choral musicians, we are uniquely situated and gifted to understand the power of community—what we do is intensely, necessarily communal; we are utterly dependent upon one another for the true and honest expression of our music, and we are enhanced immeasurably by the presence and participation of one another. We don’t in fact even exist, as a choir, without one another; and our music would not even happen—Palestrina and Tavener and Duruflé would be mute without our communal efforts. My daughter would have died without communal efforts—she was lifted and held by the efforts of a community of people working together toward a common, positive end, and accomplishing in the process a miracle which none of them could have done alone.

I want very much to conduct this concert tonight. Maybe, had we programmed the best of broadway or swing into spring, I would have begged off; but we programmed music which reflects the best of the human spirit in a difficult time—and the difficulty of this current time impels me to respond in the language I speak best, and with you, who speak this language for me. I am grateful to all of you for being here to help me with this. Let’s sing our hearts out.