The Heart And The Hearth

This has been a devastatingly confusing week. In the face of so much gun violence and racial tension we are asked to love more. We hear that it is not enough to pray for peace, we need to do more. We are told that if we simply stand by, and if we do not enter into the conversation we are part of the problem. At the same time, our patience is short, our defenses are up, and we are scared of what might be next. This does not feel like a calm, comfortable environment for posing forthright questions. Everything that is asked can imply a position, and will quickly label the questioner. It is easier to be quiet. It is easier to avoid the hot buttons, the risk of offending, the devastating confusion. But we must love each other…

So, we love each other…

My parents will celebrate fifty years of marriage next Saturday. What is the hallmark of their creed? Trusting, honest, patient, resilient, thoughtful, faithful love. This is powerful love, and the kind that is less and less the norm in today’s society. This will be a celebration of the long and winding road…


And we love our own identity, while we love each other…

I was given a beautiful gift tonight. A book entitled “My Beloved Man: The Letters of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears.” In her foreword, Fiona Shaw writes:

“All artists share a longing for what Yeats called “the heart and the hearth”…the desire to be home, but blessed and cursed by the need to communicate with the world. These letters show how two huge artists who were so often parted, survived. There is no question of either of them changing their natures, one an extrovert performer, the other a quiet composer – scruffed necks pulled apart by their gifts which were their attraction – and both paying the price, dealing with the necessity of long parting with an unrestrained frankness that allowed them to be together, intimately creating a hermetically sealed world.”

I am eager to read the intimate exchanges between these two complicated, brilliant artists who found such strength and comfort in their devoted love for each other. They shared an equal love for their art, and fully realized the importance of its creation and performance…especially during times of adversity.


We create what is important to us. We work to our capacity. We live passionately, and we love passionately, and we love indiscriminately…

Artistic creation is more important than ever at times like this. Leonard Bernstein famously said it best in the wake of JFK’s assassination:


As artists, we have a job to do. Regardless of whether it chose us, or we chose it, we can and must create beauty in response to the confusion, violence, destruction and death that surrounds us. We can strive to understand, and to accept,  but more importantly we can simply respond with creation rather than destruction.

And we pray…whatever that means to us, and however we do it, and we have to keep doing it. It might not be enough, but it is still essential.

Create, Pray, Love.

We have to stay true to ourselves in order to “communicate with the world.” We need to feel able to ask questions with “unrestrained frankness.” We need to meet people where they are in the world without them “changing their natures” or us feeling forced to compromise our own core values. We need to unashamedly retreat into our “hermetically sealed world” in order to replenish, reflect and redouble our efforts to create beauty and fulfill our “desire to be home.”


2 thoughts on “The Heart And The Hearth

  1. Hello Nick,

    Just listened to your There Is a Balm in Giliad. The hymn itself is, to say the least, soothing. Your arrangement takes the spiritual essence of both music and words to another plane. Thank for all you have given to the world in music


    1. Thank you, Bob! It’s one of my earliest efforts, written 25 years ago and – strangely – remains unpublished. Thanks for your kind message. N


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