Dance of the Blessed Spirits

At service on Sunday, 9/22/2013, Nat Woodruff blessed us with his flute playing during the Anthem, playing Orpheus and Eurydice, by Christoph Willibald Glück.  Prior to the start of the anthem, Karen Stearns read Nat’s “interpretation” of this piece, which is definitely worth sharing.  Also, to Nat’s point, if you want to view the opera, check out some of the options in YouTube for Orpheus and Eurydice.  – Dave Joy

Video Link(video)

A flute player’s note:


“Dance of the Blessed Spirits” is a ballet set in the Elysian Fields of pagan myth.  But I see it as imagining heaven.   The music I will play is in three parts.   The first I see as symbolic of beauty in the face of grief.   The second symbolizes for me the presence of grief in the face of beauty.   It has a different tempo, and a questioning sound.  Finally, the original theme returns, as though a conflict between grief and beauty is resolved in favor of beauty.   Ultimately, “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” makes me feel conscious, not only of the prospect of Heaven, but also of the happiness I’m allowed to feel here on earth.

Orpheus and Eurydice, by Christoph Willibald Glück, was first performed in Vienna in 1762, and then, with changes, 12 years later in Paris .   It can be hard to relate to opera, given the language barrier and the tendency to have unhappy endings.   But I want you to know that here is one you can watch on the internet, with subtitles, and the ending is not unhappy.  Orpheus and Eurydice are a young married couple, very much in love, separated by Euydice’s untimely death.   Cupid encourages Orpheus to charm his way into the underworld and bring her back.   Orpheus is able to do that due to his outstanding musical ability.   He has the sweetest voice of any mortal, and he plays a lyre, which is rather like a small harp.

 One of the choreographies of “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” has dancers symbolically welcoming and blessing a newcomer (Eurydice) in the first passage, and continuing in the second, while the presence of an interloper (Orpheus) is increasingly felt.  The interloper’s questions are not resolved, though, and the music returns to the first theme.  The heartbreak is not over for Orpheus and Eurydice.   Yet, I promise you, if you watch this opera, the ending will be happy!   If you would like to know more about Orpheus and Eurydice, please ask me sometime during coffee hour.   This musical experience has given me a great deal of happiness.   Happiness can be catching.  I hope you catch some.

Nat Woodruff