“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” Percy Bysshe Shelley
Happy Ground Hog Day! This morning, I hope your own local rodent has brought good, spring-timey news to you and your community. In case you don’t remember the folklore, here’s how it works; if it’s cloudy when the Ground Hog comes out from its burrow on February 2, then spring weather will arrive before the vernal equinox. If it’s sunny, the Ground Hog will see his shadow and retreat back into his den, and winter will continue for six more weeks.
February 2 is also a religious holiday called “Candlemas” with roots going back to Roman and pagan times. Religiously, it commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary forty days after giving birth, as well as the presentation of Baby Jesus in the temple. The Roman and other pagan celebrations were more of a “bringing of light” kind of thing, celebrating days getting longer and lighter since it occurs exactly midway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.
German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought the woodchucks and ground hogs to the party; believing seeing, or not seeing, their shadows were predictors as to how soon spring-like weather will come. In fact, the rainier, snowier, and greyer today is, the more likely spring will come sooner! We need spring; especially after the fall and winter and the past few YEARS we’ve had, don’t we?
You may ask yourself, why is Marie nattering on about Ground Hog Day and Candlemas and folklore? What do those things have to do with choral music? You are right, of course, to question my topic. What Ground Hog Day and Candlemas remind us of is this; it is really always darkest before the dawn and there is light at the end of the tunnel, despite the clichés. There is a rhythm to the seasons and, no matter what happens, spring is sure to follow winter. And yes, we can apply these things to our Choral Life.
The winter holiday concerts are over. Whatever Sturm und Drang we had to get through to make it to the other side, this year especially, we got through it. We are now preparing for the next set of concerts or the next important holiday worship services and may feel a bit like “here we go again.” It might feel as if we won’t be able do it, but we can do it because we just did, and most of us did it under rather difficult circumstances.
The days are getting longer; it stays light longer. It will soon get warmer. Things will get better, things will get easier, things will get simpler, but we have to be patient enough to get through more tough bits first. We’ve been through A LOT lately, and certainly we can get through the rest of this winter.
We choral folk are resilient and resourceful. We are presented new challenges, rise to the occasion and have done things in the last three years we never expected to do. Every season, every year brings with it its own set of special circumstances we must get through in order to present our Art. And we do it; day by day, season by season, and year by year and adapt NO MATTER WHAT because we love what we do.
I leave you with this thought; we are halfway through winter today, meaning spring will be here soon. I hope it’s cloudy and grey where you are!