The bittersweet harmonies of Barber’s song of ruing carry me back two score years to that day I sat intent on the bench - Barber’s accompaniment on the stand.
Ben Walker exploded into the room “Have you heard about the president? ” My blankness answered, “Kennedy's been shot! ” My stiffened fingers lifted from the keys. Dread-filled I stammered, “Will he be all right? ” Unable to utter the words, Ben shook his head.
Scenes flicker on our mindscreens like scratched newsreels - tears staining Bernstein’s face, Eroica and Resurrection weeping our televised agony, Oswald doubled over Ruby’s bullets, a toddler's unbearable salute.
Watching motorcade frames repeat in slow motion, we careen on rubber legs: a nation’s heart shattered in Dallas
The somber song plays on: Housemans’s words Joined with Barber’s melodies:
'With Rue my Heart is Laden.'
I was practicing the piano part of a song by Samuel Barber set to a poem by W.H. Auden. I was to accompany Ben Walker, a baritone friend who was to sing it an upcoming recital when he burst in and gave me the horrific news.