Saturday, April 25, 2015

Let the sunshine in

For someone who does keep a daily diary, I would think that keeping a regular blog would be a piece of cake. Evidently not.

Here's a collection of ramble-thoughts accumulated over the past month, with my reviews/impressions of two productions I saw recently.

It's times like this where I wish I kept some sort of longer-scale record (ex. a blog) during freshman year, since my worries now are just a continuation of those from 2013. On my plate: academic achievement, letters of recommendation, med school personal statement, med school this and med school that. 2013: will I be able to volunteer at the Free Clinic, will I be able to find a research lab? 2015: am I an adequate de-facto leader at the Free Clinic, will I be able to conduct my own research project effectively?

My worries stem from the fact that I am applying to med school this summer, my ultimate dream for most of my life, my one and only North Star. This situation has been made more dreadful (not dreadful as in plummy, archaic dreadful, but dreadful as in it fills me with some kind of dread and anxiety and eagerness) because my boyfriend has almost exact opposite problems (they stem from indecision and uncertainty in his career goals).

Anyhow, these things, as well as my recent feelings of scholastic mediocrity have put me in a sort of dreary, gloomy mood. To combat this melancholy, I talk to my roommate, my friends, my boyfriend, go visiting. And for something completely new: I went to two shows (a concert and a musical) and they were spectacular.

Bach Mass in B Minor

One of the last of Bach's compositions, the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) is a complete setting of a complete Latin Ordinary Mass, consisting of the usual movements:

1. Missa (Kyrie and Gloria)
2. Symbolum Nicenum (Credo)
3. Sanctus
4. Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Dona Nobis Pacem

At the risk of sounding too weird about synesthesia, B minor is a grim, stately, blue key, and through it, the Mass achieved a level of cosmic grandeur that I can't attempt to express here. I attended the University Chamber Chorus and UC Berkeley Baroque Orchestra's performance of this masterpiece, and I don't think my evening could have been better. As a note, with each movement, the Latin lyrics and translations were projected above the stage, which deepened my understanding for this musical wonder.

The Ordinary Latin Mass spans a wide spectrum of the relationship between Man and God, and it spoke pretty strongly to this agnostic. Solemn supplication and mourning for the sins and suffering of Man and Christ (B minor) yield to the hope for deliverance and miracle by the grace of God (D major).

A few of my favorite movements: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Cum Sancto Spiritu, Crucifixus, Et resurrexit, Et expecto, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Dona nobis pacem


Not as much to say on this one. AB (roommate, CivE) and CB (EECS) and I went to Barestage's production of this musical that CB's roommate was in. A summary: Vietnam War draftee meets a tribe of long-haired hippies and they sing about society and their time, youth and their struggle to find their place and purpose. Given Berkeley's history of protest and involvement in activism during the Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and anti-Vietnam movement, I was already engaged with the material.

Interesting thing about Hair is that it was written and debuted on Broadway in 1969, and I was astounded to see how meta their entire analysis of that time was. Anyhow, the female vocals completely hit me, and gave me some genuine chills. The playbill included a lengthy introduction about the modern interpretation of some of the problematic content, including racism and cultural appropriation in the script and staging.

A few of my favorite songs:  Aquarius, I'm Black/Ain't Got No, L.B.J., Hare Krishna, Let the Sunshine In

Afterwards, we got doughnuts, explored an underground parking lot, and watched CB fly a fighter jet around Vinewood, shooting missiles at the city (Grand Theft Auto V, a favorite pastime of the EECS house). A good night.

And now, the two of them together: the Mass began with the choir lined behind the audience in a pitch-black concert hall. One light was shone onto the conductor, and at her first baton drop, the hall rang with the first note of the Kyrie eleison, and it was as if a choir of righteous, solemn angels had descended onto our mortal congregation. And truly, it was a surprise, and nearly got me God-fearing. On the other side, Hair ends in a surprisingly somber way, and the final song, 'Let the Sunshine In,' read as a desperate plea for peace, love, and understanding -- and mercy. It was a demonstration of tragic solidarity (no spoilers here) and the cast took from the stage running helter-skelter to reassemble behind the audience, ending the song without musical accompaniment.

So, perfect bookends. The symbolism was not long-coming; not to mention, Hair ended, too with dim lighting.

Kyrie eleison -- Lord, have mercy. I still think about these two shows. What an experience.