Jewish tradition tells us that Elijah the Prophet travels incognito from Heaven to Earth revealing secrets of the cosmos to those who are willing to listen and learn. As long as he is explicitly invited by these words: This is the chair of Elijah the prophet, he'll make an appearance at Seders, circumcisions, and other festive gatherings. Elijah is teased for acting like a schnorrer, showing up for a free meal and glass of wine. But Elijah's central role in Judaism is that of a messenger, helping to transform the physical world into the Divine. There are stories from saintly rabbis who studied Elijah; they tell of righteous people who were plucked by Elijah from disaster at the last moment, and not-so-righteous given their chance to make amends through Elijah's intervention.
Which leads me to think: A year ago I was ready to throw in the towel as a violinist. In a frenzy, I tossed black concert dresses and pantsuits from my closet, heaped them into a pile in the back of my messy Eurovan, floored the gas pedal to Ballard Goodwill, and dumped them into the donation bin while holding my nose. End of story?
For classical musicians, the month of May concludes many subscription seasons. A few of my colleagues complain they're exhausted while, to tell the truth, I feel as if I just awakened from a nap. This week, it's off to St. James Cathedral to perform Mendelssohn's Elijah with Seattle Pro Musica. The vibrancy and musical leadership of conductor Karen P. Thomas is remarkable; she's a dynamic force that energizes musicians, singers and audiences alike. This is my first time performing Elijah, and my first experience working with Seattle Pro Musica.
The following week, I'll be performing Mahler's Second Symphony "Resurrection" with Rainier Symphony . The "Resurrection" is a colossal work; a long journey from inner torment to peace, and as with Mahler's music, therapy for the wounded soul. Resurrection of the Dead is a fundamental belief in classic Judaism, and Mahler's Jewishness resonates to the core with me.
But is there life after death for professional regional orchestras during a Great Recession? A few hours after the Rainier Symphony performance on Sunday, May 17th, I'll step in as guest concertmaster for Bellevue Philharmonic's final concert of the season. Besides the fact that I can't find anything to wear, I'm secretly hoping that the spirit of Elijah will be there.