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November 4, 2007

I’ve just come home from a concert in our local cathedral, and I’m feeling good. The cathedral comes into its own for large scale performances. The acoustic quality really shines when there is an orchestra and a choir who climb over each other to bounce their voices from the high ceiling. Today there was a small orchestra and two hundred voices, half of them children from seven to twelve.

The concert was Rutter’s Mass of the Children – a latin Missa Brevis with some English poetry worked in. Lovely music, well performed, wonderful blending of the adult and children’s parts. Just the thing for a sunny Sunday afternoon.

And that is why I am thinking about rain. OK, that’s not the whole reason I’m thinking about rain. I’m thinking about rain because it has been raining. Several days of rain we’ve had. The river near here is up and flowing again. People are walking over the bridge just to look at the river. Hey, it’s only water in a gully. But that’s rain for you.

Several years of drought sure do make a difference. We’ve racked up five or six years now, seven in places. It’s a long thirst. For a while I was kind of pleased. In the first year I cut down on mowing the lawn. The second year I used one can of mower fuel for the whole summer. Beauty, mate! The third year and things were different.

Have you ever driven around your town and watched the trees dying? Around here they die of thirst and heat shock. One tree gone one year, another the next. Six years later a whole row of trees down the street are spindly sticks and we’ve given up hoping for them. It doesn’t matter how hard a tree works to keep itself alive, when the rains are gone for six years many just can’t make it.

And last week the rain. Steady, heavy, constant, gutter-breaching, rain. We lie in bed listening to it on the roof. We sit at the window and watch it. We stand outside and let it fall on us. We smile at each other and no words are necessary. And the world turns green.

There are those who say that had the world turned a bit more green a generation ago we might have been spared the drought. What a world we are passing on to the next generation. So many things of yesterday, gone.

This afternoon I saw something being passed on to the next generation. A hundred adults all dressed in black. A hundred children all dressed in white. The adults had printed scores in their hands, the children sang from memory. The adults had soprano and baritone soloists, the children sang treble in unison. The adults understood the latin they sang, the children struggled with a language heard only on the concert stage and unknown in their everyday world.

And the applause at the end, it was thunderous and those children came alive. Little kids who for forty minutes had concentrated and maintained their unison and struggled with harmony against the backdrop of a very adult setting, suddenly something was let loose. Broad smiles and shy bows to the audience and wide-eyed looks passed between friends and proud but subtle signals to parents in the crowd.

And the soloists and conductor were presented with gifts, but the applause went on and on for those children.

It was like rain on the roof, that applause. And I am feeling good.