So here’s something cool that a very short list of people on the planet know. It’s not a secret, it’s a nobody-in-their-right-mind-would-see-this sorta thing. When the USS California (CGN-36) was in dry dock getting a face lift following an Indian Ocean cruise* there was an afternoon set aside to clean the reactor rooms. Yeah, the NUCLEAR reactors. They’d been shut down for quite a while (not to be confused with “making no radiation”, that never stops) and it was safe to go in for short periods of time to dust and wash and all that sort of thing. I was one of the (lucky?) reactor operators that got to go in and observed a truly amazing phenomenon. All of the exposed metal had a gentle glow to it. Nothing dramatic and science fiction-esque, just a sheen that you could barely discern. It was a beautiful effect (once you got past the “that just CAN’T be good for me” and “my children are going to be born with gills” thoughts that ran through your mind) and very difficult to describe.
As the last silent measures of “Requiem for the Living” came to an end I found that picture in my mind (from 35 years ago no less) as I tried to wrap my head around how and why the performance was more than just an orchestra and organ accompanying a choir. There was a gentle glow to it at first, a sheen that you could barely discern. It dug in deeper than you expected it to and stayed there. As the movements progressed it was almost relentless, it just wouldn’t loosen its grip on you. The only other piece that I can ever recall grabbing me like that is the “Hallelujah Chorus” but that’s short and never subtle. The “Requiem” had layer upon layer of…I don’t know what to call it. Each movement had its own hold on a different place within you and each of those attachments remained as things moved on. It was additive, if you know what I mean. It was as if there was a single hand that reached out to touch you on the shoulder during the first two measures of silence (THAT was a profound stroke of genius) and then more and more came in contact with you until you were engulfed. Not in a stifling way, not exactly in a comforting way (although some of it certainly was), you were just increasingly “involved”.
As I thought about it later and tried to analyze it a bit (sorry, it’s a failing of mine, ask Mrs. Blogmeister) I realized that there could be only one source for that engulfedness (my blog, I get to make up words when I want). That level of elevation of emotion can only be found in the human voice. You can only do so much with a single note coming from an instrument and an organ’s sound is quantifiable. The chorus is the messenger, the architect, the sculptor. What happened during that concert was the result of not only months of hard work but also a desire (a need?) to lay 100 hands on each member of the audience and give them that little glow.
* The unfairness of the globe…this particular cruise was one of the rare ones that went completely around the world. Every time we exited a time zone we lost an hour of sleep. When we crossed the International Date Line? Two Mondays, “Monday Alpha” and “Monday Bravo”. Argh. At least we were one of the toughest lions in the pride: two single-armed Mk 13 launchers, one ASROC missile launcher, two Mk-141 launchers for Harpoon missiles, two 5-inch/54 calibre Mk 45 guns, rapid-fire cannons and full suites of anti-submarine warfare equipment. C’mon…I dare ya’.