Love in Counterpoint

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a concert by a dear friend, Russell Stern, pianist extraordinaire. His program was entitled “Songs of Love,” and he played pieces by notables such as Chopin, Puccini, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin, as well as his own compositions. Several of his pieces were accompanied by other amazing talents, such as Mark Agnor, violinist, and Laura Hamm, flautist, among others. The concert was in one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen—Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Glenview, IL.


One of Russell’s compositions was called “Heartsong,” and included flute and violin. He explained how it was inspired by images of a man and woman falling in love and marrying. The three parts represented the man, woman, and the presence of God. It made both aural and visual sense—the melody was beyond lovely, with the three instrumentalists playing together and in counterpoint.  


As I listened, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between this piece and the elements of a story: 


Setting. A beautiful church with wonderful acoustics, where notes floated up past golden walls to kiss the curved, blue ceiling.


Characters. Three instrumentalists interacting in a meaningful way, eliciting emotion from the audience. 


Plot. In the form of intricate melody—a framework for the thrilling nuances of love. It had a beginning, dramatic middle, and satisfying denouement.


This composition opened my heart in the same way an incredible love story does—where at the end I’m breathless; caught up in those final reverberating notes as they dissolve into light and air. 


Then I breathe again, and cheer.


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