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Grief is universal, but how we grieve is not.

While I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to grieve the loss of a child, I have had to grieve the loss of loved ones.

Personally, I find solace in music. Below the fold, I've provided links to a few pieces of music that I've found consoling.

First, Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei. It's an a cappella setting of his own Adagio for strings. It runs about 10 minutes.

Second is the first movement of Henryk Górecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It starts and ends with a canon for strings; in the middle is a Polish setting of a lament of the Virgin Mary, sung here by Dawn Upshaw. The full movement runs about 25 minutes; Upshaw's song begins about 10 minutes in.

The last piece I want to share is Herbert Howells' Hymnus Paradisi. Howells wrote this after the death of his son Michael from polio. He wrote it in 1938, but kept it private for over a decade. Ultimately, he showed it to fellow composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who convinced him to allow it to be performed in public. It finally received its premiere in 1950 at Britain's Three Choirs Festival. Until the day he died in 1983, Howells received letters from listeners after every single performance of the work in Britain.

It is a work about death, but it is, like Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem, as consolation for the living, as evinced by the recurring theme of light. This work runs 45 minutes, and I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

Finally, let me offer a short quote from "Spared," a poem by Wendy Cope written shortly after 9/11. It sums up, I think, how survivors must feel knowing that it could have been them.

Spared all of this
For now, how well I understand
That love is all, is all there is.
You can hear Wendy Cope read her poem here. For those of you with Spotify accounts, you can find a hauntingly beautiful setting of Spared by Howard Goodall (yes, that Howard Goodall).

Originally posted to Samer on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 05:03 PM PST.

Also republished by An Ear for Music.

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