Alan Jones: The Readings for Haydn’s Seven Last Words

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The Alexander String Quartet’s March 30, 2018 performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco will feature readings between the movements from Dean Emeritus, Alan Jones. Dean Emeritus Jones offers his notes for these readings below:

The readings between the movements are meant to be a form of suggestive punctuation – a way of allowing the music to enter into our minds and hearts, to introduce us to new ways of experiencing the mystery of suffering love at the heart of things. This means being aware not only of our attraction and resistance to it, but also of our rejection of it.

Just one example: Shusako Endo’s novel, The Silence of God is about 17th c Japanese martyrs. The narrator watches two men bound to the stake as the tide of the sea comes in over them — until they die exhausted. “What do I want to say? I myself do not understand. Only that today, when for glory of God Mokichi and Ichizo moaned, suffered and died, I cannot bear the monotonous sound of the dark sea gnawing at the shore. Behind the depressing silence of this sea, the silence of God … the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent.” It would be easy simply to bathe in Haydn’s haunting music but his genius invites us into a kind of restlessness which turns into a sense that we are part of something profoundly challenging and hopeful.

And then there’s T.S.Eliot:

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

—Alan Jones, dean emeritus

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