Each year on August 15, Mary soars into heaven. It’s a favorite feast because of the great organ concerts held on this day in Europe. Here’s a post about two I attended in the 1970s given by Marcel Chapuis, one in Venice, the other in Paris. If you look real hard, you can still see him bowing over the rail.
Tonight it visits me again as if for the first time. I am standing on the Pont St. Louis in the early ’70s with the Seine beneath while the barges like black swans glide under my feet and returning students puff smoke and words. In the distance the spider legs of Notre Dame are lit by the rising moon.
Later there’s a recital to celebrate Mary’s Day in St. Germain-des-Prés. In my mind swelling chords intersperse with the soft voices of an a cappella choir. Silence punctures echoing wooden sounds and seconds later a triumphant peal fills the air with thick romance. A concert of flowers and stones.
The organist bows at the end, low over the railing high above the pews in the Paris dark, a thin beam of light rimming his head. As he bends, I suddenly remember another organist’s bow, this one in Venice a year to the day, marveling then how far, but not far at all, the earth has traveled in a year’s turning.
Afterward I see the happiness of the crowd disappearing into the late summer night already crunched with leaves. And memory holds the organ’s spent sound and those deep twin bows from someplace distant and high, holds them while I hear the flowers and the stones once more and feel again what it is to be young and alone in Paris, wondering why this time, after so many turnings, we did not see it coming.
Photo: Notre Dame Cathedral, 2006. Credit: Atoma, Creative Commons.