Friday, January 6, 2012

Praying all the way to the Banke

It seems like my life has finally come full circle.

When I was a 18-year-old agnostic Jewish sophomore at New York University, I never set foot in a Catholic church if I could help it. All my free time and energy was spent trying to track down and interview my personal gods—members of the 1960s group the Left Banke, of "Walk Away Renee" fame. I didn't know the meaning of "vocation," but I had a mission: to write the definitive history of the Left Banke for a rock magazine (part of which is now available online).

Flash forward a quarter-century to December 10, 2011, and I'm now a Catholic author studying towards a doctorate in theology, while the Left Banke are not only back together, they're performing at the Basilica of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral. And who has invited them there, but none other than students of New York University—they're the special guests of the NYU Drama Cantorum's Christmas concert. What is more, they sound fantastic.

What a delight to see the excitement on those students' faces. It's worlds away from the reaction I got from my fellow NYU students at the time that Prince and Bruce Springsteen were topping the charts, when I tried to explain to them why they should listen to a baroque-pop group whose hit streak ended before they were born.

Another strange reality check for me is finding myself thinking as I watch these videos, But ... but ... they're performing secular pop music in front of the Blessed Sacrament! (Again, not a thought that would have entered my mind in my hipster days.)

Yes, they are. Perhaps I shouldn't be happy about the historic basilica's being put to secular use. But I don't know how anyone who loves music can listen to musicians, young and old, commune this beautifully, without experiencing a taste of divine joy.