Much of the repertoire categorized as Early Music by us modern folk was, whether religious or secular in nature, directly connected with the ideas of Heaven and Hell. Not surprisingly, a great many of these songs used love–doomed or newly married, joyful or unrequited, chaste or wildly earthy, or whatever brand was of interest in the moment–as the vehicle for exploring the concepts of Heaven and Hell. We are only able to conceive of and interpret any grand philosophy or construct through the lens of the familiar, and best so, through what excites our attention and preoccupies our waking hours. Love, in all of its myriad aspects, is a logical choice indeed for such explorations.
The programs sung and played thus far this week at Berkeley have been unsurprisingly full of love, lust, longing and loneliness and all of their cousinly affections, then. I had to laugh when a humorous piece contrasting Heaven and Hell included text and visual references in the performance that made Hell seem remarkably likely to be just another name for Texas, but that’s merely a reflection of this same recognition factor that makes songs of love such a universal language, so globally appealing.The whole festival this week is in itself a fine microcosm and affirmation of this communal language, created by not only the sharing of these great and even the not-so-great pieces of music, but also richly by the sharing of our common interest in music and the arts and the newly fledged acquaintances and enriched relationships that come from our all crossing paths in this event, by coming together as it were to sing the same song and revisit our sense of love and its wonders.
Now, let the players and singers strike up another chord!