Tag Archive: Yale


The pollen of elms troubles my eyes

Tears,
How mine eyes
Tear and weep.

Is it the pollen of elms?
New Haven’s eponymous trees?
The elms are back from weakness, disease.
I return from there, too.

We gather,
Sit beneath the great
Barrel vaults. The
Florid rood floats, almost,
Overhead.
Faces in faux-ancient
Glass gaze down.
“Do we remember you?”
Their stares draw my
Gaze to them, to the
Western light, the
Vesper glow.

What tears! Is it the
Pollen of elms, or the
Bright sun, which
Makes me weep?
Such distorted vision—
Prismatic view!

Whom do I see?
Friends long since departed,
To both other places and planes.
The bat boy flitters nude across the parlor,
The chunky one flounces before the tube,
Taunting the weird, bearded one.
Beets pour forth,
An endless sea of beets.
And the fragrant, baked egg yolks.
The lazy man naps in the dining room niche.
Jolly rings.
The first real love approaches—
What fear!
Funky, chunky,
crazy, annoying,
Krauts, Canucks,
Tiger Lily,
Beer me!
Leona Helmsley lives again.
Miner, Murray,
Lara, Lackstrom.
Faces pass in eye mist:
Newberry, Dwight, Marquand—
Pipes by the thousands.
Velut maris stella!

Two Dots… then a dash?
No, stay!
I cannot.
I must go
To grow.

I have gone.
Are you still there?
Yes. No.

When I close my weeping eyes,
I see you.

I open my eyes,
And you are there
In the tears.
“There we sat down,
Yea, we wept.
How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?”

I am back!
You are here…
You are gone.
Your face, your smile,
Your voice.
We meet, embrace,
Reminisce.

Friendly faces
Peer from the windows I pass.
Again, I return,
Must go.
All my godsons,
How they’ve grown!
And my Mentor
Prepares for a final
Dismissal.

I can’t see.
My nose drips.
Images and memories
The allergens,
But not the irritant:
It is the absence,
The distance.

I hear “Singet”
And remember when
I last sang
Truly well.
Under the elms.

I am here again—
Hello!
Must I say good-bye?

A score of years
Since I arrived,
Yet even after so many away,
It is still a reuniting
To return.

Could I have left
My heart in New Haven?
Hardly, you say,
Skeptical.
And yet,
Why this weeping
When I return?

Is it only the
Myopia of age and
Nostalgia that makes me see only
Your warm smile?
Has the cheek sunken?
The hair thinned?
The waist grown?

Or are you still the
Rough Beauty
I came to love?

Wipe the tears,
And let me see
You, in the
Vesper Light
Filtered through the saints,
And the elms.

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An organist who makes you chuckle?

I recently played two organ recitals (hopefully there will be more about that soon). I received a lot of positive comments about my biography in the program, so I thought I’d share it with you.

—————

Organist and pianist Christian M. Clough is really happy that both you and he are here today.

Christian goes to concerts, operas and plays occasionally, and generally finds performers’ biographies dull as dishwater.

Christian moved to Hamilton with his family in 1980, and graduated at the top of his class at Hamilton Central School in 1987. He went away to college determined not to pursue a career in music, and chose to major in geology, but one too many late-winter field trips in Western New York digging trilobite fossils out of damp, cold riverbeds in waning sunlight under cold, drizzly skies turned him away from field geology. After his graduation, Magna cum laude, from the University of Rochester, where he was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he looked toward a career in management at Walt Disney World. Little did he know at that tender age that climbing the corporate ladder would require spending an unspecified number of summers in polyester costumes under blistering summer sun in the withering humidity of central Florida for tiny hourly wages.  He sought supplementary income, and a musical outlet, through part-time employment as Organist-Choirmaster in a small Episcopal church near Orlando that didn’t really want good music at the traditional service, just fewer praise songs than at the “family” service. When the resident squirrels chewed up the speaker cones of the 1950s Allen electronic organ, Christian planned his escape back Up North, where he entered the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, earning a Master of Music in Organ Performance and Choral Conducting from the Yale School of Music (1997), and a Master of Arts in Religion, in Liturgical Studies, Magna cum laude, from Yale Divinity School (2003), punctuated by a fabulous year of private organ study and cultural tourism in London and beyond.  He loved New England, but left for full-time work in Santa Barbara, where he was uncomfortable living in paradise (Did you know that Central New Yorkers think it’s divine punishment to have to endure that much sunshine, and also that they need to wear long underwear annually?), so he moved Back East in 2005 to work as Director of Music Ministries at The Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC, which, in summer, is worse than central Florida (except for the polyester). When the opportunity to flee northward arose again last winter, Christian accepted a job in Chicago as Director of Music at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer in the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood. There, he conducts three choirs and oversees a fourth, and plays a wonderful 2004 Martin Pasi two-manual tracker organ for two services every Sunday.

Christian’s mission in life is to “Cultivate Curiosity, Encourage Exploration, Deliver Delight”. He hopes that, in bringing both familiar and new musical works to life this afternoon, you will be inspired to look and listen just over the horizon from your own musical comfort zone, and find greater delight as a curious individual. You can read more of Christian’s own explorations and ruminations on his blog, “18 Pockets”, at <18pockets.wordpress.com> (Please leave comments and stimulate conversation!). To inquire about additional performances and offerings, please contact Christian at <christian.clough@aya.yale.edu>.

Christian has won a few prizes and merit scholarships along the way. His piano teachers have included Lois Rainsford and Kerry Eustance Koen; his organ teachers, the late Mary Ann Dodd, John Bodinger, Michael Messina, Charles Krigbaum, Thomas Murray, Gerre Hancock, Anne Marsden Thomas, James Parsons and Martin Jean. He’s supposed to tell you that, as a professional. More importantly, they have all been sources of invaluable inspiration, each in her or his own way, and many of them have become dear friends and treasured mentors over the years.

Immediately following this concert, Christian plans to spend forty-eight hours enjoying what he hopes will be a heart-stoppingly beautiful display of fall foliage in this, his beloved hometown, before returning to that great city in the pancake-flat Midwest.