A mother, a daughter and some special pearls of wisdom
I take it as a given that there is always more we could do to acknowledge and celebrate the legacy of Blanche Moyse.
Musician, conductor, teacher, leader and inspiration, Moyse is ever present for those who worked with her, were friends with her, sang and played for her, and were coaxed by her to artistry they never knew lay within them. As a member of the Blanche Moyse Chorale -- currently on a brief personal hiatus -- I am always conscious of her presence in the room with us. I take very seriously my responsibility to be open to receiving her wisdom through those members of the group who sang with her for years and years.
Thus is was with great interest that I read the new book, "Blanche: World Class Musician, World Class Mother," written by her daughter Dominique Moyse Steinberg.
Eminently readable and enjoyable, "Blanche: World Class Musician, World Class Mother" is not the definitive biography of this important figure in the musical world and our area's development as an artistic and cultural hub. And it never claims to be.
Rather, it is a more intimate portrait, told through the lens of a mother-daughter relationship, telescoping outward to larger life lessons using many of Moyse's pearls of wisdom that came to be known as "Blanche-isms."
Subtitled "Noteworthy Lessons for Living in Harmony with Self, Others, & the Universe," the book is organized around 26 of these lessons, illuminated with personal stories, many from the close perspective of the wonderful mother-daughter relationship Blanche and Dominique shared.
The result is a book which should strike warm chords with people who know Moyse, while giving those who never knew her a chance to be inspired by her as well. That was Steinberg's hope.
"I think that the people who knew her will get that wonderful warm fuzzy feeling you get when you remember someone who's gone ... that spiritual feeling you get from reconnecting," said Steinberg. "For people who didn't know her, there are some things to think about."
The idea to structure the book the way she did grew out of an ode to her mother Steinberg wrote to read at a May 2011 memorial service for her. Blanche Moyse died on Feb. 10, 2011 at age 101.
"I knew that everyone would speak of her as an artist. I felt that I got to know her as a woman, as a friend. ... When I write that ode, it just really confirmed for me what a remarkable, remarkable woman she was," said Steinberg. "We had a very special relationship. ... I wanted to offer little insight or glimpses into what really excellent mothering looks like."
So she began turning that ode into a book, stringing together many of the pearls of wisdom her mother had shared through the years.
"It was fantastic. It got me through the first two years after her death. It just kept me so close to her," she said.
Among the pearls of wisdom illuminated are: "Do it right because it is beautiful and you love it"; "I don't like power. I like strength"; "The notes are like us. They don't mean much when alone, but all, when together"; "The reason we perform is so we can practice"; "The silences are as important as the notes"; "You have to be present in every single note"; "One should always try, even if it is frightening"; "I hate ‘acceptable things, because piled on top of each other, they go flat."
Illuminating each in their right, those little lessons, and the stories and recollections Steinbeg adds give us a picture of the extraordinary women Blanche Moyse was.
"She really was honest, the most honest person I know," said Steinberg. "Her ability to stay true to herself, including the parts that weren't so elegant, was remarkable."
Copies of "Blanche: World Class Musician, World Class Mother" are available at Everyone's Books and on Amazon.com.
Copies will also be available when the Blanche Moyse Chorale honors its founder with the third annual Blanche Moyse Memorial Concert, which will be performed on Friday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at the Bellows Falls Opera House in Bellows Falls, and on Sunday, Oct. 13, at 2 p.m., at Marlboro College's Persons Auditorium in Marlboro.
Under the direction of Mary Westbrook-Geha, the Chorale will perform J.S. Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" in its entirety, with professional soloists and an orchestra comprising many New England Bach Festival veterans.
Memorial Concert tickets purchased in advance are $20 for general seating or $40 for preferred seating, and may be obtained from the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523, at Brattleborotix.com or Brattleboro Music Center or from any Chorale member.
Tickets for the Bellows Falls concert are also for sale at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls. Tickets purchased at the door are $22 for general seating or $45 for preferred seating. All student tickets (college included) are $5. Both venues are handicapped-accessible. For any special seating needs, advance reservation is appreciated.
Both performances are sponsored by Vermont Public Radio. For more information, call the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523, or visit www.bmcvt.org.
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