I want to take a quick break from Merle Haggard, just because I feel like it. I remember two major things about being in Paris. We performed at many places but two really stood out. The first was Notre Dame de Paris. The thing about that was that we were only allowed to perform sacred music there. That cut out most everything we did. The only thing I can remember that we did was Bach’s cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, which means something like “Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life.” You probably know it best from last of its ten movements, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” For whatever reason, I just want to listen to it today.
It was very special to perform there. I’m not religious and I never have been. But I love religious art, architecture, music, and even ceremony. It’s all meant to heighten the religious experience. But to me, all that peripheral stuff is the religious experience. And they are probably more important than ideas in the religion anyway — especially for the illiterate masses that followed the religion all those years in a language they didn’t understand.
The other great Paris experience was performing under a gazebo in the Luxembourg Garden. It was probably a weekend afternoon and there were many hundreds of people sitting around listening to us. They hadn’t come to listen to us. They were just there. People played there all the time. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. But we were perhaps 15 minutes into our performance and it started to rain — hard. I figured everyone would run away. But they didn’t. They just opened up umbrellas and continued to listen. It was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.