By Louis Cunningham (’14)
Imagine yourself in the dark, at a cemetery, high above even the most pious vigiler, staring t a life-size crucifix illuminated only by the glimmer of the stars, with your ears straining to hear even the faintest noise, but only hearing one thing: silence.
On the first weekend of my senior year, this was my experience: no crazy parties, no late night Gonzaga dances, simply the sound of silence at Gonzaga Concert Choir’s annual retreat to St. Gertrude’s Monastery in Cottonwood Idaho. And though this perilous night walk to the cemetery might not be the common experience of most of Gonzaga’s choir members, this silence has not only become an integral part of my time at St. Gertrude’s, but also exemplifies my experience in the choir as well. Whether it be that deep pause before the next piece in front of a packed St. Aloysius Church, or the final note of Haydn’s Paukenmesse resounding through the caverns of St. John’s Cathedral, the silence that I have experienced here draws me back to the source of beauty in my life – listening to Jesus in the concrete reality that He has given me. Although it’s been a quick turnaround from my summer of counseling high schoolers while kayaking and camping around the south Puget Sound, coming out to a place which has been lovingly and beautifully built up by generations of faithful sisters who respond to Jesus’ loving call to “come away and be with me,” is something that I cannot be more grateful for.
And then there is the choir community! This weekend we’ve listened to each other more than anything else. From heartfelt small groups to blending voices in a song that we received only two days prior, I have seen how important this tranquil and silent atmosphere is to building our community up: in being able to truly see each other and most importantly to experience Christ’s gaze in the silence of listening to the other.
In reflection, I have found this silence to be an integral part of my life even outside of choir. Without watching our conductor, Dr. Timothy Westerhaus, our entire choir would be in pandemonium. Similarly, I have found that this holds true for my life as well: if I remove my gaze from my Divine Conductor, my harmony quickly devolves into misshapen chords! Even if all the ‘notes’ are there, I try to take my own pace without watching the ever beating baton keeping me in pace with all of those around me. And although this choir concert is just the beginning of another season of stressful dress rehearsals and confusing C sharps with D flats (or is it a double B sharp…?!), the ability to take this time to experience the silence that is so important to my life ensures that I am making music, and not just simply more noise in an already noisy world.
Louis Cunningham (’14), of Renton, Wash., sings first tenor. A double major in philosophy and classical studies (with a focus in Latin) and a minor in Catholic studies, Cunningham is a seminarian at Bishop White Seminary, studying for the Archdiocese of Seattle.