Karen Hitchcock: The Many Voices of Love - For David

Two weekends ago, hundreds of people from across the Capital Region came together for two performances of the Albany Pro Musica’s late winter concert, “If Music be the Food of Love.” They came together to hear the exceptional music of our region’s premiere choral ensemble, the Albany Pro Musica (APM), and they came to honor David Griggs-Janower who, as many of you know, is in the hospital, after suffering a major stroke following surgery on March 8th.

As stated in the Program Notes:  “Today, Albany Pro Musica performs for the first time without our founder and Artistic Director, David Griggs-Janower. David chose the music, and prepared us for this concert. We sing it for him and we offer it to you…”

Yes, for the first time in 32 years, David Griggs-Janower was not physically present at a concert he had conceived, shaped and imbued with his exceptional professionalism and innate joy in all things musical. But, his presence permeated the hall.  The Albany Pro Musica, his chorus, sang for him, sang with the hope and love we all share for this exceptional man.

Months ago, David had chosen the content for this concert, a concert which he saw as a celebration of love - joyous love, unrequited love,  sacred love, sensual love. From, as he put it, the “oozingly romantic” Munus, meaning a gift, to the quietly reverent.  As he has often done, he highlighted an exceptional new piece; this time, a composition by David McCullough, commissioned in part by Albany Pro Musica, entitled “Song of the Shulamite”, and featuring APM member, Jean Leonard, whose soaring, exquisitely beautiful soprano voice led us through the text, adapted from the Song of Solomon.  Under the baton of the distinguished guest conductor and long-time friend and colleague of David, Melinda O’Neal, the Albany Pro Musica, indeed, did David proud!  And, as David has so often done, he invited the Capital District Youth Chorale (CDYC) to be a part of this celebration of love. And they were wonderful, as their  founding Director, Diane Warner, led them in a medley of songs, perfectly suited to their voices and the occasion. David’s passion for music has taken many forms, but few more important to him than introducing young people – be they his vocal ensembles and students at the University at Albany or members of area choruses  such as CDYC and the Albany High School – to the joy of singing, to the joy of creating and sharing musical experiences which are uplifting and transformative.

In an interview with Joel Patterson in 2009, David said that “… Albany Pro Musica … is the heart of my musical life, my professional life.”  He went on to say that I am “… enormously grateful for them, and sometimes so moved by what they do onstage that I’m just conducting and crying and that’s when I know that we’re really making it happen.”  Well, this past weekend, the APM, under the direction of its wonderful Assistant Conductor, Joseph Farrell, made it happen for David … for all of us privileged to share in their outpouring of love and caring for David, for their fellow singer and David’s beloved wife, Paige, for their children, Michael and Katy, and for the entire Griggs-Janower family.  Sunday’s performance was streamed live to David’s hospital room. Every note was sung to him, with love and healing thoughts.

Given the theme of this concert, the music David chose was extremely moving and, given the situation, extremely difficult to perform well. The courage and professionalism it took for the members of APM… these close and long-standing friends of David … to do just that is nothing short of remarkable. Their raw emotion was palpable in the hall.

As wrenchingly difficult as it must have been, the members of APM, in David’s words, “made it happen”. And we saw the recognition of this reflected in the faces and standing ovations of an audience used to APM’s musical excellence, but now, along with the chorus, also sharing their love for the man who makes such musical excellence possible.  A man who, for over 30 years, has shared with us his own deep love of music and his uncompromising commitment to excellence in its performance.

As the last notes of the concert’s final poignant piece, Omnia Sol, echoed throughout the hall, many in the chorus and audience dissolved into tears – tears of sadness , tears of love and tears of hope for this caring and dedicated  man, David Griggs-Janower.  And, we all, I am sure, could hear David say, "Enough  of this. Let’s get back to the music!"

Dr. Karen Hitchcock, Special Advisor in the consulting firm, Park Strategies, LLC, was President of the University at Albany, State University of New York, from 1996-2004, after which she went on to lead Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Hitchcock has received honorary degrees from Albany Medical College and from her alma mater, St. Lawrence University. She has served  on numerous regional and national committees and task forces dealing with issues in higher education, research and economic development. While at both the University at Albany and Queen’s University, she co-hosted the popular WAMC program, “The Best of our Knowledge”.

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