Music does not have the ability to heal, but it does have the ability to put one’s heart and mind in a place where healing can begin. This experience is all the more impacting when the composition that aids in the healing is the perfect fit for the situation, almost as if it was written for it. This weekend the Milwaukee Symphony is playing Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, and elegant piece that achieves its drama through being subtle and transparent. With all of the tragedies occurring in Haiti the past week, one would assume that Faure’s Requiem was a wise pick and a worthy tribute. What makes this amazing is that the work has been on the calendar for well over a year, and is truly the perfect piece in the repertoire to bring peace to the overwhelming tribulations that are happening in Haiti.
I feel like I’m able to wrap my mind around this because I lived in Southern Louisiana when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused so much damage and pain. I know that the numbers of people dead and the level of destruction in Haiti is far worse, but certain parallels make me feel attached to what is going on there. A lot of people after a tragedy go to the same expressions of sympathy, the most common being the statement “it’s all going to be o.k.”. These words are comforting but hard to grasp, because truthfully nobody really knows at this point if it is going to be “o.k.”. The only thing more heartbreaking than the disaster itself is when people’s urge to assist can’t get to the devastation; for Haiti in the lack of runways, for Louisiana in the lack of a competent president.
Food, running water, and medical supplies are what we can give to the people of Haiti, but what they truly want as much as these things is even simpler: rest. Rest encapsulates all of our deeper needs: energy, the ability to momentarily forget, the normality of sleeping in a bed, and the peace of knowing that while everything might not be “o.k.”, at least it is o.k. to lie your head down, breathe deeply, and dream. As I listened to Faure’s Requiem last night, I heard the word “rest” in the text more than any other word. This is why I couldn’t believe the kismet of this work and the message that Haiti needs more than anything right now. Faure’s Requiem doesn’t make too many promises, it doesn’t overlook the graveness of human suffering, and it doesn’t tell us that everything is going to be o.k. It simply asks God to grant us rest. It doesn’t dramatize pain, and it doesn’t underestimate suffering, almost as if the work knows that is a task each of us most grapple on our own. It simply facilitates: it creates a moment for healing while not trying to do the healing itself. To grant the people of Haiti rest is to grant them a far better tomorrow.