Tag: hildegard von bingen

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.




Mary Gowing

DeKalb Choral Guild president

Tags: hildegard von bingen | Chris Owenby | Choral Concert | DCG | atlanta community chorus | DeKalb Choral Guild | Mystics and Music | Herrick | Hafiz | Rumi | mystics

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



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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