I first heard a version of today’s selection sung by an a cappella choir in Winnipeg, Canada called Prairie Voices, which a friend, Amanda, belonged to some years back. (She is the same person who created our wedding invite theme, as featured in this post. By the way, Amanda has recently been called upon by our city’s mayor to be part of a task force to help small businesses recover from economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic… she’s an incredibly talented, connected and caring individual who will do some great things to support the business community.)
The choir’s performance was mesmerizing and led me to seek out a recording of it.
During a part of my career many years ago, I sat in on meetings where operational folks talked about some horrible situations their people had to deal with. As a non-operational type, I wasn’t trained in or otherwise equipped to process that information, which could be very disturbing. I found I was having a hard time clearing my mind of the associated images at the end of the workday.
One day, it occurred to me to use this piece of music to help dissipate the negative stuff that would accompany me home, as I love the song for the very soothing effect of the choir. As a ritual at the end of the day, I would close my office door and play the track on my iYiYi iPod dock. I’d then leave the building, intentionally clearing my mind of the bad stuff as I walked away toward the car.
“Upon my pillow, safe in bed
A thousand pictures fill my head
I cannot sleep my mind’s aflight
And yet my limbs seem made of lead”
(from “Sleep,” by Eric Whitacre)
Whenever I hear it, I’m taken back to the time when this song helped me so much.
There is a fascinating article on Whitacre’s website, which I recommend reading to learn the backstory on the genesis and rather dramatic development of the piece, originally composed as a commissioned work.
Today, when re-listening to Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music, Garvey’s sister, “the Becepedia” (sometimes spelled, “the Beckapedia”), played a portion of the piece during her segment on the program, bringing back these memories. (I was playing the program yesterday but occupied with birthday phone calls and messages through much of the day, so wanted to track back and hear what I’d missed… I’d heard from my friend and former boss that he and his family had listened to the program on my recommendation, and enjoyed it. I am privileged to have worked with both him and his partner; genuine, compassionate and principled people whom I like a lot but do not see nearly often enough.)
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s an official video from Eric Whitacre’s YouTube channel. About it (from YouTube): “The 2011 Virtual Choir video features 2052 performances of ‘Sleep’ from 1752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011.”
And this, friends, is how we are receiving all of our live performances right now and for the predictable future due to the pandemic-related cancellation of all public gatherings. What vision people like Whitacre and others had back then. We are, in many ways, a blessed world.