Posts Tagged ‘The War Amongst Families and Neighbors’

Last night I attended the premier of a new oratorio by Stefan Freund, The War Amongst Families and Neighbors. The work is a historical sketch of the civil war in Missouri and the way that a divided state endured tumultuous times. As the story was based on actual records, correspondence and documents, the audience was escorted through unthinkable brutality by the soloists, chorus, orchestra and multi-media.

Some moments – direct quotes from first person witnesses to atrocities – were literally breath-taking. And having the events and quotes delivered in a stunning musical medium left the audience in a quandary: Do I clap?

The clap question was expressed in the frequent moments of half-committed applause. It’s courteous to express appreciation, isn’t it? But when is it not appropriate to clap, no matter how beautifully executed the performance?

Since the audience didn’t figure it out and no one from the production helped us I had to answer that question for myself. I simply stopped clapping, except at the end, of course. Clapping is the knee-jerk gesture of appreciation in our culture. But it is often misplaced, a kind of genial, mindless spell-breaker, like clapping after a beautiful musical setting of a prayer.

The truest and best tribute is often that of thoughtful silence. Some performances and some topics deserve nothing less than that. And though I didn’t have either the clarity or courage cued up and ready to go at that event, maybe next time I find myself in a similar position I will simply turn to those around me and say, “This is too important to clap.”