Yesterday I sat on a folding chair inside the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park blinking my eyes. Several voices singing divinely about our essential humanity had nearly brought me to tears.
I’d just enjoyed a short but stirring preview of San Diego Opera’s upcoming production of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. This unique chamber opera is a mixture of the spoken word and male singing unaccompanied by instruments.
Together voices relive a profound moment during the horrific trench warfare of World War I, when “soldiers from France, England, and Germany ventured into no-man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Soldiers exchanged food and gifts, swapped prisoners and performed burials, and played football and sang Christmas carols.”
The inspirational opera All is Calm contains no original music. It is composed entirely from music that was popular just before the onset of World War I, hymns and timeless Christmas carols. The actual letters of common soldiers and orders from officers are among the historical texts that are interwoven with song. Young soldiers from both sides, manning hellish trenches that were infested with rats and lice, made even more miserable with winter rain and freezing snow, are moved to walk out into the field of fire, risking their lives, to share a moment of common humanity.
The opera will be staged in early December in downtown’s Balboa Theatre, a smaller and more intimate setting than the San Diego Civic Theatre, where San Diego Opera usually performs. There is some singing in French and German, but the opera is primarily in English. Silent Night is sung in different languages by many voices, which eventually combine and rise together as one. Music moves the human heart like nothing else can.
The brief preview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 was simply amazing.
It gave me goosebumps.
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Jorge Luis Borges wrote: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” As someone who loves to read and write, I agree.
But I also love to experience life, contemplate and be inspired in other ways. So paradise, to me, would also be like a museum full of extraordinary artwork.
Anyone who’d like to enter such a paradise in San Diego should visit the San Diego Museum of Art. Every time I go, I feel that I’ve ascended to a blissful place–an elevated place where I become fully alive.
My docent pal Catherine guided another great tour of the museum this weekend, and as I and other guests walked from gallery to gallery, my eyes couldn’t stop jumping from wonder to wonder. And I had to chuckle a couple of times, too. Catherine has been known to spontaneously inject bits of wry humor into her tours. With this simple blog post I would like to thank her for being so generous.
The San Diego Museum of Art never ceases to amaze me. I’m always discovering something new. It contains a truly world-class collection of fine art, including masterpieces by some of history’s most celebrated artists. The museum has also collected many pieces that have a special connection to San Diego.
I’ve always thought it would be amazing if one small gallery were permanently dedicated to San Diego–to San Diego’s most renowned artists, and to timeless works of art inspired by our beautiful and surprisingly diverse city. Just imagine!
“There is no shortcut to true success.” Those are the words of Trevor Hoffman, 2018 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is remembered as one of the greatest players in the history of baseball.
The wise quote adorns the base of his bronze statue, which was unveiled this summer at Petco Park.
Great achievements require hard work and persistence. Achievements that endure the test of time must be built game by game, inning by inning, pitch by pitch.
The San Diego Padres have honored two of their Hall of Fame players with magnificent statues at Petco Park. Both Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman are now immortalized in bronze. Both sculptures were created by artist William Behrends, who has been referred to as the Sculptor of Sporting History.
I posted a few photos of the Tony Gwynn statue five years ago here.
Neither Trevor Hoffman nor Tony Gwynn chose the easy path. Both worked constantly, studied the game, and never stopped honing their skills.
“There is no shortcut to true success.” To those who have high aspirations, important words to remember.
In the daily hustle and bustle, one can forget important things.
I’d like to thank you all, the readers of Cool San Diego Sights.
Thank you for following along during my walks around San Diego. We’ve peered into unexplored corners, lingered in the sunshine. We’ve had a laugh or two. We’ve experienced a good deal of wonder in a beautiful city.
Thank you for your comments and your sharing.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately–about the best way to spend my weekends and free time before and after work.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more inclined to sit in a tranquil place and simply write. Deep down that’s what I really love. So I’ve decided from this point forward I will concentrate more on writing fiction, less on photoblogging.
I’ll still walk, of course–and if I happen to spy something cool or interesting, I’ll post photos right here on Cool San Diego Sights, or my companion blog Beautiful Balboa Park. But once I find that perfect seat, my old camera will be set to one side as I pick up notebook and pen.
Some of those scribbled words will eventually make it to my website Short Stories by Richard. That’s where small philosophical works of fiction await curious readers.
My camera might be idle for hours as I brainstorm, dream and write, but my feet are still restless! I’m sure more photos will appear in the days ahead. Many corners await exploration!
A photo of the mural Our River was the first thing I ever posted to Cool San Diego Sights. I had paused during a walk in Mission Valley, and had felt inspired take a few pictures. That was five years ago.
Today I returned to the same mural.
The beautifully painted artwork, depicting the San Diego River as a blue ribbon, has faded a little. Time is inexorable. But the message of unity and care has touched many.
Perhaps life unspools like a river. Sources along the way expand our being. We deepen and grow. Until we finally become a part of that great ocean.