The Sunday after the Paris attacks, I sat amid a sold out audience, waiting for The King’s Singers to take center stage. But before the performance began, Rev. Gini Gerbasi, rector of the venue, St. Johns Episcopal Church in Georgetown, addressed the elephant in the room. “Beauty is always an appropriate response,” she said.
Beauty? A response to violence?
But I neither snorted nor rolled my eyes. And neither did anyone else in the room. Because we instinctively knew the deeper truth behind that statement: That awful as the headlines are – and they have have been unremittingly awful in the last 24 hours – it is worth reminding ourselves that there is still so much beauty to be had and appreciated in the world. That when faced with the cruelty humans seem endlessly capable of wreaking on one another, what most of us really want, and need is to respond with the opposite. That most of us look for art, and beauty, and music.
In fact, many of us want to double down on the instinct. To remind ourselves that beauty exists – whether it’s a trenchant line of prose, or the clever unexpected lines of a Banksy mural. That it is our ability to create and appreciate that moment of wonder which humanizes us and keeps us from wreaking even worse havoc.
It’s what got British and German troops to famously lay down arms, if only for a very brief pause, during a Christmas truce. It’s why protestors, the world over, routinely sing their way through change. It’s what drove Jean Julien to create the Paris for Peace symbol.
We have over 100 singers at VCS. They come from every season and walk of life. The news is always a shock to the system. But given where we live and work, sometimes, the news isn’t always an abstraction. The fatalities aren’t unknowns. And the desire to sing every Tuesday rehearsal, and fill the room with music, is as much a response to the world as it is a desire for community.
Because there is much beauty to be had yet. And it is always an appropriate response.
With my best to you, in any season, and with all the beauty we have to offer,
Vienna Choral Society