On Sunday evening, Katryna and I found ourselves on a small stage at the foot of the Weeks Footbridge in Cambridge. We joined David Coffin and George Emlen of Revels to lead a crowd singing goodbye to the summer and greet the new season that is now officially upon us. As with many moms of school age children this time in September, we were both exhausted. Our book has just come out on top of the regular whirlwind of change that comes amidst the renewal of making lunches, packing backpacks, finding shoes that aren’t flip flops or crocs to wear on gym day and honoring carpools. Is now really the best time to pause and reflect, sing a song or two and look up from the busyness that is September?
As it turned out, it was. We watched and listened in delight as the Dirty Water Brass Band, a New Orleans “honk” band, acted as caboose to a wonderful parade lead by the Puppetiers Cooperative.
We lifted our voices to familiar favorites: “This Land Is Your Land,” “Sylvie,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Oh, Mary,” “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Katryna lead the crowd in the fashion of our music educational/songleader hero Jack Langstaff, in “One Man Shall Mow My Meadow” lifting her arm across the crowd as the sun and moon arc over the earth to reflect the passage of the season. Later, our father John Nields joined us to sing “Come Go With Me to That Land.”
The sun went down as we and hundreds of singers joined our voices, and as we sang the last song, “I Walk In Beauty,” a lovely tune that George Emlen has written for the occasion, we watched as a beautiful boat with a reproduction of the bright gold Sun came floating toward us. On the boat’s bow, legendary saxophonist Stan Strickland played a mournful solo, weaving through our voices. His boat circled a few times, then turned and went back the way it had come, under the Lars Andersen Bridge and off down the Charles. On the stern was a silver moon, winking goodbye to us as it floated off; the light which remains to comfort us when the sun weakens, as it is about to.
On the drive home, Katryna reflected, “It’s so important to acknowledge the grief at the passing of the sun, the passing of the summer. We do feel that loss of light. It IS sad. And that’s why we need to come together like this and sing.”