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The Importance of Reflection by DCG president Mary Hill Gowing
2016.05.10 21:55:04

 

While I prepared for the DeKalb Choral Guild’s upcoming concert Mystics and Music (Sat May 14th 7:30pm at St. Bart’s Episcopal), the texts of the world-ranging mystical writers featured in the concert have challenged me to reevaluate how and how much I think about and reflect on things in my life. They’ve reminded me that, when I was a Girl Scout leader at Briarlake Elementary, one of the important lessons I learned in training and in practice is the importance of scheduling a time/space for us to reflect on the activities we work so hard to plan and then achieve. In my experience, the reflection component was THE hardest aspect of the “plan, act, reflect, celebrate” Girl Scout paradigm. One might expect it to be easy; just sit around and talk about what you worked on. But the impulse with the girls and with our entire culture, I think, is to rush through reflection to get to the exuberance of celebration or even to the excitement of more planning and action. What does reflection do for us? Why is it so important? And how can we incorporate more of it in our lives?

 

The act of reflection can help us in many different ways. By looking back on at what we plan and accomplish we can see if we actually have met our goals or if we somehow went astray.  Stephen Covey, in his 7 Habits book, shares the image of someone climbing a literal ladder of success only to find when she nears the top that she has been on the wrong wall the whole time. Reflection can help us see which wall we are on. The mystic writings of Kabir, Rumi, and Hildegard of Bingen featured in the DeKalb Choral Guild’s Mystics and Music concert highlight this aspect of reflection that perceives what is of real importance.

 

Another aspect of reflection is that it can help us allow ourselves to feel things that we may have overlooked or dampened in the rush of the moments of doing and acting. These can be both positive and negative feelings. Perhaps it is the potential threat of sensing unpleasant feelings that also causes us to want to avoid the act of reflecting. But avoiding feeling does not make what we are feeling go away. (Many believe that avoiding feelings just makes them more powerful and less in our conscious control and that recognizing them causes our feelings to be less frightening and a more accepted part of ourselves). The Navajo prayer Now I Walk in Beauty, composed into song by Gregg Smith (which will be heard at the Mystics and Music concert), is a mystic meditation which transports and guides the listener to FEELING the beauty ALL around us.

 

Finally, reflection can help us gain perspective. In our busyness we can lose sight of how events and experiences can have many different interpretations. Reflection gives us the opportunity to look at things from different angles, search for missed nuances, or find points of view that weren’t available before. This ability to step back and see the broader picture can lead some to even experience a sense of transcendence. This feeling of being a part of a much larger integrated whole is well expressed in the mystic poetry of the world such as Hafiz and Judah Al-Harizi, (who will be sung at our Mystics and Music concert).

 

So how do you go about incorporating more reflection in your life? One way is through art and music.  Art and music invites us to reflect on the work and ourselves, to feel things, and to search for meaning, knowing it will be one point of view among many. You can reflect on all these things at the DeKalb Choral Guild’s Mystics and Music concert this Saturday May 14, 2016 at 7:30pm at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 1790 LaVista Rd. Atlanta, GA. Tickets are $5 and are available at our website (www.dekalbchoralguild.org) or at the door. Hope to see you there.

Reflectfully,

 

MAryGSF

Mary Gowing

DeKalb Choral Guild president



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Who is Hildegard Von Bingen? by Guest Blogger Composer Chris Owenby
2016.04.22 01:21:40

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS (A QUICK GLANCE AT THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN AND HER INFLUENCE ON A COMPOSER’S MUSIC)

 

Light… at times, it only shimmers.  Like a warm ray peeking through the forest trees, it shimmers.  But it's there.  As the golden sun rises, all of its warmth and piercing rays overtake the cold and dark of the forest making visible the dark places and providing energy for life to thrive.

 

Hildegard von Bingen was a beacon of light in the darkness.  Her life and legacy have not only influenced the arts, but science, philosophy, and religion. 

 

As a woman living in the middle ages, her thoughts and ideas were not held in high esteem as those of her male counterparts.  The youngest of ten children, from an early age she demonstrated a high capacity for learning.  She began having visions of light.  Recognizing her unique gifts, her parents enrolled her in a Benedictine monastery.  In the convent, she learned to read and write and had access to a wide range of books of religious and philosophical nature. 

 

As she grew in physical and intellectual stature, she eventually became abbess of the convent and to the overwhelming critique of her Abbott, made preparations to move her convent so it would be separate from the rule of the male house.  Holding fast to her vision and not giving in to the surrounding pressures, she succeeded.

 

Hildegard continued to shine the light of her life in the darkest of places.  Toward the end of her life, she opposed the church and allowed a nobleman who had been excommunicated to be buried at her convent seeing to his last rites.  She endured overwhelming attacks from authorities for this decision, but eventually appealed to the higher church and was somewhat restored.

 

Many such accounts are a common feature of Hildegard’s life and work.  She is an inspiring figure.  Her poetry is fresh and bright, lending itself to musical interpretation. 

 

On May 14th, the DeKalb Choral Guild will premiere Three Short Poems of Hildegard von Bingen.  It is a bright and joyful work filled with lively rhythmic figures, memorable melodies, and simple, but compelling textures.    

 

My hope is the divine life and work of this brilliant mystic will shine forth in and through the music.  May light continue to shine in the darkest places.

 

Learn more about the inspiration and compositional process behind Three Short Poems of Hildegard von Bingen: http://theartfulcomposer.com/hildegard/


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Composer Chris Owenby lives in Atlanta with wife Erin and their two children Abby and Emma. When they are not spending time at the park or making crafts around the kitchen table Chris enjoys composing award winning songs, instrumental music and choral works that have been performed by the Goliad ensemble, The DeKalb Choral Guild and Terminus New Music Ensemble to name but a few. 




Tags: mystics | hildegard von bingen | choral music | christian mystic | the artful composer | DeKalb Choral Guild | atlanta community chorus

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On Being a Compassionate Chorus By Mary Gowing, DeKalb Choral Guild, president
2015.07.15 20:48:06

Last year the DeKalb Choral Guild signed the Charter for Compassion and became one of the first of that organizatoin's many arts partners. The Charter itself is a beautifully written document laying out a committment to respecting all people. Ever since signing the Charter, we as an organization, have been ruminating on how we can run our organization with more compassion. At our annual meeting in May, Robert Johnson, from Compassionate Atlanta, came to us and facilitated a dynamic discussion about this. At our recent DCG board meeting we continued asking how we can be more compassionate: in board meeting, in rehearsals, in our relationships, in our programming, in our concerts... I, as DCG president, opened the meeting with a statement that I wrote about how I hope we can operate our organizational business in a compassionate way. The following is what I presented to the board.

 

Being the Compassionate Chorus

In planning, dreaming, discussing the business of the DCG; in rehearsing, studying and singing music of the DCG, in taking tickets, performing and welcoming guests to the DCG; in giving of ourselves in myriad ways to the DCG let us always be mindful that it takes intention to have and express compassion for one another, our community and the world.

 

To be the compassionate chorus, we need to continue to create and maintain a culture of mutual respect and trust. To do this we need to be free to express ourselves without fear of punishment and repudiation; we need the space to experiment, to try, to fail and to try again; and we all need to be valued for the unique people we are and for our contributions we bring to the DCG.

 

I hope that in all aspects of our DCG dealings we can continue to nurture this compassionate culture and when anyone of us fails, as we, being human, will do, that we respond with understanding, knowing that we, each of us, have our own failings and shortcomings, and that we can accept our imperfection while still moving forward with a continued sense of shared purpose. MG

 

Atlanta has signed the charter and so has Decatur. Avondale hasn't yet. Is it making a difference? It has to the DeKalb Choral Guild.

 

This August the DCG is holding auditions for all voice parts: Seeking Compassionate Singers to share in excellent and  innovative musical experiences that enrich our community and ourselves. Call for an audition appointment. 678-318-1362. Auditions will be held on Mondays Aug 17th and 24th.

 

 

Charter for Compassion:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. 

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.


If you would like to officail sign the charter as an individual or as an organization click here

 



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