By Mary Joy Leaper. Photos by Glen Sawich
As the last chords of “Agnus Dei” from The Fire Mass resounded, a profound stillness embraced the room. All present were deeply moved; a few wiped away tears. Thus the 2017 Summer Festival of Light, Sound and Peace: Celebrating Presence came to a close for another year.
Some said that it was the best Summer Festival since Dr. Mills passed in 2004. The vibrant fellowship among the participants was palpable, seeming to grow stronger each day.
The offerings that fostered this atmosphere varied, yet carried three themes in common: language, meaning, and sound. An Unfoldment™ new to most participants opened the week’s sessions. Entitled “The Art of Meaning,” it began with Dr. Mills giving “attention to Song.” What is meaning? This question was explored throughout his lecture. Four facilitators from New York and Connecticut (Paul Sargia, Mary Joy Leaper, Greg Serdahl, and Donna Willems) evoked participants’ creative responses to passages from the Unfoldment. Many of these responses – in short prose or poetry – were read aloud at the end of each of the two sessions, revealing many talented writers.
The published lecture “A Fool’s Utterance?” also considered language, asking (among other questions), “Who is the fool/Fool?” Facilitators Glen Sawich and Robert McAlpine penetrated the Unfoldment on a number of levels, focusing on the role of the Fool in bringing about transformation and asking how that had occurred in participants’ lives.
On Wednesday, Ellen Mann and Janet Butler guided the participants into a new, deeper appreciation of the words and music of The Fire Mass. Long-time member of the Star-Scape Singers Terry Stevens (bass) told numerous fascinating stories about rehearsing and performing the work with Dr. Mills. These included moments that were so potent that he had found himself levitating off the stage floor. Scarlette Leach and Susan Kaplan also shared stories of their experiences with Star-Scape concerts. The first three movements of The Fire Mass were shown on video, and the rest was heard on an audio recording.
Visual arts also played a role in the week. One evening before dinner, Jennifer Murphy spoke about Dr. Mills’s paintings and encouraged diners to share their experiences with his art during the meal. Jennifer is Muskoka Chautauqua artist-in-residence this year. On Thursday morning, Mallory Blair Randle showed slides of some of his sketches – Dr. Mills’s home in the Arizona desert; Sun-Scape Inn, site of the Summer Festival from 1975 through 1989; and the Star-Scape Singers in rehearsal with Dr. Mills. (To learn more about both of these artists, see our earlier blog posts.)
Board President Steve Mack and board members Angela Wingfield and Gregory Serdahl joined in leading a “blue-sky” session to elicit new outreach ideas from those present.
Thursday evening brought video clips by Glen Sawich of the Kenneth G. Mills Poetry Gala, showing young winners from the recent poetry awards for high school and college students. Bob McAlpine led a brief poetry-writing session, and the evening ended with a video of Dr. Mills offering spontaneous poetry.
Throughout the week a number of visitors participated in a day at the festival. These additions were most welcome.
Plan to attend next year’s Summer Festival of Light, Sound and Peace: Celebrating Presence. The love and inspiration found at these festivals are incomparable.
Also, be sure to save Saturday, October 7, for the Kenneth G. Mills Foundation’s annual Thanksgiving Wordshop, at Hockley Valley Resort, Ontario.