Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Arts. . . both gift and a call to service

What's not to love about the cello? A "voice" to die for. Sexy design. Polished finish that brings each wooden fiber to brilliant life. 

This instrument first thrust itself upon my consciousness in the PBS documentary, "Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound," that chronicles Baez's life. The segment that stood out for me was her 1993 visit to the destroyed and terrorized city of Sarajevo, Bosnia. She described her heart-rending encounter with Sarajevo Opera cellist Vedran Smajlovic. 

"Unable to stop the madness that had ripped apart the former Yugoslavia, Smajlovic honored the memory of his friends and defied their killers by doing the only thing he was good at. Placing his chair in the middle of the street, he took out cello and bow—musician and instrument melding into a single defiant force. Eyes closed to the surrounding destruction, he rendered the mournful Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni." 
Be it a musician, actor, painter, or writer, anyone else endowed with creative gifts, Smajlovic's offering to his fellow Sarajevans represents an artist's supreme achievement: to become one with the work and with the audience. I imagine him getting up every morning, donning his tuxedo, as if he were going to play with his disbanded orchestra, and carrying chair and cello out onto the dangerous street to play Albinoni's soulful Adagio in G minor. 
I imagine Michelangelo on the scaffolds of the Sistine Chapel, Antoni Gaudi living the last years of his life in the dusty construction site of Barcelona's (still-unfinished) Sagrada Familia Basilica.
I think of Victor Hugo in 1861-1862, melding himself with his idealized man, Jean Valjean.

The great gift of artists is that they do not hoard their transcendent experience, but allow us differently skilled humans an opportunity to transport ourselves in spirit to a higher realm of contemplative unity, be it ever so brief. Wise beyond human comprehension are those artists who are fully conscious of their lofty and sacred calling, to inspire our world and make the world a better place for everyone.

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I invite you to read my book, The Soul of Art, available at all online booksellers in both paperback and ebook formats.

My Art and Soul retreats/workshops explore the sacred source of artistic gifts and the mission of those so blessed to share the fruit of their talents with others for the betterment of our Sarajevo-like world.

Next retreat/workshop:

Saturday, June 24, 2017
9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

San Damiano Retreat House
Danville, California
Cost: $55

For information about this event or to book future events, contact

(c) 2017 by Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved