Messiaen at Laity Lodge

Messiaen at Laity Lodge(L-R) David Danel, Bethany Brooks, Steuart Pincombe, and Nathan Williams. Photo credit: Wendi Poole

It was a great privilege to spend last week at Laity Lodge rehearsing and performing Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen with violinist David Danel, cellist Steuart Pincombe, and pianist Bethany Brooks.  Last week’s retreat at the Lodge was a Creativity Week and attracted participants from all over the country, all of whom were engaging and vital and eagerly shared the sense of awe, respect, wonder, humility, love, rejuvenation, and compassion (I could go on and on!) that embody the incomparable spirit of Laity Lodge, one of those places that’s at once in the middle of nowhere and at the center of everything.

Morning and afternoon workshops were offered each day in jewelry making, woodworking, print making, door making, pottery, and song writing.  The writer and director Murray Watts spoke each morning—-so very inspiring—-and the actor Andrew Harrison did several of Murray’s skits as the week went by, culminating on Thursday evening in a one-man, one-act play Murray wrote based on the life of Charles Darwin, Mr. Darwin’s Tree.  Our performance of the Messiaen took place on the final night, complete with a talk by Steuart Pincombe and a reading about each movement by Andrew Harrison.

Steuart and I first met last October when we were at Laity Lodge to perform at the Ordinary Saints retreat.  (See my blog post from November 13, 2018.)  He and I bonded both musically and personally and knew we wanted to work together again.  He told me very enthusiastically about a violinist and pianist he had performed with before who he thought I would also enjoy, and those two turned out to be David Danel and Bethany Brooks.  The wheels began turning and Steuart dreamed up a wonderful approach to the Messiaen, supported and encouraged by Steven Purcell, the director of Laity Lodge.  The stars aligned, and it worked out for all of us to meet and begin working together last week.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I have loved getting to know and play with David and Bethany, and how great it has been to work with Steuart again.  Bethany commented many times during the week that she was living her best life as we were rehearsing at the Lodge and we all heartily agreed.

After a couple of days back home in Austin, I get to return to the Lodge tomorrow for more rehearsals and another Messiaen performance on Saturday night.  I’m so grateful that we get to perform this incredible music together again in a few days!

“My faith is the grand drama of my life.  I’m a believer, so I sing words of God to those who have no faith.

I give bird songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them, make rhythms for those who know only military marches or jazz, and paint colors for those who see none.”

 —Olivier Messiaen