Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Palms


Palm Sunday was two weeks ago. Here at Wekiva Presbyterian Church our custom is to have a procession during the opening hymn, in which the children come forward with palm branches. Most years, we ask someone from the congregation to bring palms for the children to carry. This year (so I learned yesterday) no one was asked to do that.In most parts of the U.S.A., that would be an insurmountable predicament. But here in Central Florida, where the sabal palm is the state tree, it was mostly a minor inconvenience. Thanks to Aloma and Pam and their quick thinking and a handy pair of scissors, the palms were collected from the church grounds. I must say, they were lovely, and seemed to get bigger and bigger as the children came down the aisle. Indeed, I was somewhat irreverently reminded of the episode of "I Love Lucy" in which Lucy wears the giant Ziegfeld Girl headdress and has more than a bit of difficulty navigating the grand staircase. Well, our kids did their procession perfectly and the palms were spectacular.

Not to mention that the landscaping is looking nice and trim as well. The photos of the palms are post-Palm Sunday, so you can see, we have a profusion of palms a-plenty, and there's more where they came from.

Palm Sunday always reminds me of my baptism. Not that I actually remember it, since I was not yet a year old, but it happened on Palm Sunday. My Uncle D. James Yolton was the minister of the morning and officiated for my baptism. A lovely family tradition which I continued, having baptized my two children and two of my cousin's children.

Palm Sunday also reminds me of a particular piece of music called "The Palms" or "Les Rameaux" by Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914) not to be confused with Gabriel Faure. You perhaps know it? It is played from time to time in most congregations of a Palm Sunday. Sometimes even sung. Here is a nice trio of piano, cello and violin version:

The Palms

And here is a pull out the stops organ version:

The Palms

And another:

It is quite splendid when done with panache. If you are of a certain age, it may take you back to another time and place. You will notice that the composition has several repeats. Therein lies another story. One Palm Sunday afternoon, I was at the Presbyterian Retirement Center in Oakmont, PA, to do worship there. I was glad to go and share the good news on Palm Sunday, and there was a sizable congregation of residents present. One of the residents also served as the pianist for the worship. She had selected, appropriately enough, "The Palms" and when the appointed time came, launched into it with a deftness of hand that was wondrous to hear. It did not appear to me that she had any music before her, so this must have been a piece she had played many times before and had long since committed to memory. We were all enjoying the familiar strains, as she did one of the repeats. And then she played the repeat again. And again. And again.

Friends, I had a vision of the film "Groundhog Day". I felt as if I had entered a kind of Twilight Zone in which I was destined to forever hear that passage, repeating and repeating. The needle had gotten stuck in a crack (a reference which no one under 25 will understand, whatsoever).

At any rate, after about the fifth or sixth repeat of the repeat, it was as if something inside of the pianist nudged her along and she finished the composition before tea time, after all.

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