Sunday, November 9, 2008


Jerusalem Cross :

Today was a day of rituals and remembrance. I went to the Mozart Requiem performed as part of the regular service at Grace Cathedral. Initially I wasn’t sure why the All Souls Day commemoration had been postponed a week; but then it made sense. All Saints Day was on Saturday November 1, but was celebrated a day later. So All Souls had to wait a week. I didn’t sing today, but I had rehearsed part of the Mozart a few weeks ago when I subbed for John Kelley, fellow Yalie and Bohemian. In any case, I wanted to hear it and had given a donation in memory of Dennis.

I thought at first to wear the suit I had worn at Dennis’ funeral, but instead wore what had been my everyday outfit on our last trip to Venezia for Carnevale in 2006. So I wore olive corduroys, a black turtleneck with the gray, rust, olive and black Harris tweed Orvis jacket Dennis had given me as a final Christmas present. Since it was chilly, I wore the Woolrich logan coat I had bought for Dennis at the company store the day we were in Woolrich for Mother’s interment. Then with a muffler, tweed cap, and Dennis’ Cartier wristwatch, I headed to BART. It was a clear, beautiful, sunny day, particularly after the rain yesterday. As Charles Agneau— the late verger at Grace Cathedral— had recommended to my Dad, I took BART all the way to the Embarcadero stop and then the Cable Car up California Street to the cathedral, rather than walking up Powell Street as is my usual custom. At the coffee shop downstairs I bumped into former Chanticleer alto Jesse Antin, who was going to be one of the soloists today. He said he hoped to do an adequate job. He was utterly superb!!

I sat on one of the stack chairs in the left front of the nave with a perfect view of the choir and orchestra in the North Transept. Els Holt, a parishioner I hadn’t seen in several years, greeted me and asked how Dennis was. She was shocked to hear that he had died two and a half years ago – embarrassed that she hadn’t known.

The altar frontal was the ivory and gold mosaic-like fabric with the Jerusalem Cross motif that former Chanticleer singer Sanford Dole had sewn for Easter many years ago. It inspired me to find the gold Jerusalem Cross pendant Dennis had given me at the time of my confirmation. I nearly threw it away by mistake. He gave it to me right after Bishop Swing blessed me. It was wrapped in tissue paper, and I thought it was for a runny nose or emotional response. Dennis had it engraved with my name, the date 28~9~86 and a reference to Psalm 46 verse 10 :  “Be still and know that I am God.”

A few days before I was confirmed, Dennis almost retracted his sponsorship. We were having a heart-to-heart theological discussion, when all of a sudden he exclaimed: “I don’t think you’re a Christian!” But he deferred until I had had an opportunity to discuss the matter with our then pastor Dr. Lauren Artress, founder of the Labyrinth project at Grace Cathedral. Lauren and I hit it off pretty well. I think her own perspective is more universal than most Episcopalians’ and is open to Hindu and Buddhist influences.

I was being confirmed at Dennis’ insistence in the first place. He didn’t think it right that I was a 'music mercenary.' If I were going to sing at Grace Cathedral, I should be a contributing member. After all he was on the Board of Trustees and the Stewardship Committee.

I have one of the few 18 carrot gold Jerusalem Cross pendants that Dennis had designed and made especially for our then Dean David Gillespie to give to the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, a few years before. In 1987 Dennis and I had a private visit with the Archbishop on the grounds of York University when we were in England together for the first time. (We had hoped we might be invited to tea at Lambeth Palace instead, but the Archbishop wasn’t in London when we were.)

Anyway, this has been a day of remembrance. The Mozart was glorious. I particularly liked the 1994 completion by Robert Levin of Mozart’s incomplete final work. Afterwards, I visited Dennis’ plaque in the North Tower Columbarium. Dennis died without knowing that I would have the space next to his. I’m still paying a monthly mortgage on my Nob Hill condo.

Last night’s concert was excellent, though I’m afraid I have to agree with S.F. Chronicle reviewer Joshua Kosman, that the Brahms Violin Concerto was fine, but not outstanding – despite the soloist Nikolaj Znaider’s Guarneri violin once owned by Fritz Kreisler. The Nielsen Symphony No. 3, however, was absolutely grand. Herbert Blomstedt certainly knows how to interpret the symphonies of Carl Nielsen.

Tuesday is Veterans' Day and my late friend Gary Murakami’s mother Toki’s birthday. Since she’s allergic to fragrant flowers, I always send her an orchid plant. Her living room is full of them.

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