My beloved and I were in New England for a vacation. We just wanted to see the fall foliage, and neither one of us had spent any length of time there.
We had rented a car, and in deciding where we wanted to go, one of the places we wanted to see was Walden Pond in Massachusetts. We had both read Walden by Henry David Thoreau, whose ideas of simplifying and of not leading a life of quiet desperation kind of appealed to us. Our other draw to Walden Pond was that Minnesota composer Dominick Argento had written a work a number of years ago called Walden Pond for one of the anniversaries of the Dale Warland Singers. I had premiered the piece with the Dale Warland Singers in 1996, and my wife, Naomi, sang on the 2003 recording of the work.
So there we were, surprised that on a weekday in October, the Walden Pond parking lot was full; it was a very international crowd. We started walking down the stone steps that go down to the pond, and my first impression was, "This is a much larger piece of real estate than I thought."
Walden Pond is big.
As we approached the beach, there were a number of people there swimming and running, and there was a group of folks off in the distance, maybe about 50 yards away, standing in a semi-circle right there on the shore.
"Hmm," I thought, "I wonder what they're doing?"
They started to sing.
Naomi said to me, "They're singing Walden Pond by Argento!"
"Are you sure?" I asked.
But by that time, Naomi was already running ahead because she wanted to find out who the people were. As I started running toward them I realized, "Hey! There's Brian Newhouse! And Angela Newhouse! And there's Bob Peskin of the Minnesota Chorale! That's the Unity Singers from Unity Church Unitarian in St. Paul."
We didn't know they were going to be there, but indeed they were, with their music director Ruth Palmer, singing sections of Dominick Argento's Walden Pond.
There were hugs and exclamations of delight and wonder.
"Oh my gosh!" people said.
"How did you guys get here?"
"How did you get here?"
Because we knew the piece, we were invited to sing sections of Walden Pond with them. (I held out in a few of the more difficult places since I hadn't looked at it for a long time.) But we got to sing Walden Pond by Dominick Argento on the very shores of Walden Pond. And it was just one of those spiritual experiences that comes out of the blue I had no idea that I was going to have this kind of experience going to Walden Pond.
When the music was finished, Naomi and I said goodbye to the group from St. Paul; they were on their way to lunch, and Naomi and I had planned to walk all the way around Walden Pond.
As we walked, my jaw hung open the entire time; I was just amazed at how serendipitous the afternoon was: meeting singers that we knew, singing a piece that we knew, and all of it inspired by Henry David Thoreau.
It was a complete Thoreau experience.
Listen to the first movement of Walden Pond, "The Pond," by clicking the audio at upper right. This recording is from the 2003 Gothic Records release on which Naomi Staruch sings.