Solace Amid Snow

The calendar has turned from February to March. Who’s tired of all the snow? I’d wager just about everyone. However, as we bid farewell to the snowy season in a few days or weeks, I can’t help wax a little nostalgic. I hope you’ve had a chance to watch and listen to this beautiful video put together by Discover Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival. Through the magic of drone photography, we see the Walla Walla Valley in all its winter splendor. There is no futile spinning of tires, backbreaking shoveling, or missed deadlines. There is only tranquility and beauty.

For all our sophistication, we often find ourselves ill-equipped or even unwilling to do the one thing a snow storm demands, that we slow down. We wail, gnash our teeth and rend our garments in quasi-Biblical agony, shaking our fists at the heavens for issuing forth so cold and slippery an insult to progress.

But when our fervor subsides, we take stock and find that snow can also bring out the best in us. We check on our neighbors. We shovel our own walks and then theirs, simply because we got into a good rhythm. We cede the thoroughfare to those who truly need passage. Those who are able help those who are not.

The current snowy predicament in Walla Walla reminds me of January 2017. Fifteen inches of snow blanketed the valley. The daily high temperature was a balmy 7ºF. Despite the challenging weather, an audience of some 300 gathered at the Gesa Power House Theatre for the final performance of the 2017 Winter Chamber Music Festival.

Having delivered a second-half set of jaw-dropping virtuosity and invention, brass quartet The Westerlies took the stage for one final piece, an encore. The audience was in high spirits, and the moment called for a real showstopper. Trombonist Willem de Koch addressed the audience, asking for their help in performing the final selection. He gave a tuning pitch, and asked the audience to match it by humming along. He implored them to continue humming until the piece reached its conclusion. While the audience united around their task, The Westerlies began to play.

It is this music, All to Ourselves by Andy Clausen of The Westerlies, that accompanies the tranquil video of our current winterscape, filmed and edited by Discover Walla Walla. Throughout the music, the audience is there, humming in unison, anchoring the simple prayer offered by two trumpets and two trombones in perfect harmony.

In the video, the hum is the wind in the trees. It is the braided channels of many waters flowing inexorably toward confluence. Out of many, one. I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before… Of course, it’s struck into our coinage. E pluribus unum… yet, rarely does currency unite. But I suppose in contemporary parlance, one could conclude that the Westerlies’ performance was “money,” as unite us it did.

Winter weather is a challenge, a nuisance and even a danger… But It’s also beautiful, and sometimes, one just needs a little reminder of that beauty. My advice? Cue up this video in July when the mercury rises obscenely into triple digits. I promise, you’ll feel a different warmth entirely.

Timothy Christie is Founder and Artistic Director of the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival