Books by Diane Frank

Canon for Bears and Ponderosa Pines


For J.S. Bach

It was the old man’s 285th birthday —
and I mean the Maestro,
the illuminata, Johann Sebastian Bach.
I was a university student, and to celebrate
three centuries of musical genius,
our conductor led a twenty hour marathon concert
starting early in the morning.
All day, musicians and students migrated
in and out of the auditorium,
with motets, cantatas and concertos.
A bare-footed organist played
the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,
then a prelude entirely with his feet.
I was amazed at the synergy of dance and sound.

Our concertmaster dazzled us by playing
the Sixth Bach Cello Suite, arranged for violin,
with his eyes closed. No music stand
as he tuned to an inner singing.
Segue to the entire orchestra walking on stage
to play the Second Brandenburg Concerto,
the Concerto for Two Harpsichords,
the Concerto for Three Harpsichords,
and later, just after sunset, the Magnificat.
I was playing cello next to the harpsichord,
inside the sway of its musical body,
surrounded by tones that took me back
to an earlier century.

That night, I had my first experience
of musical transcendence.
The moon was glowing through stained glass.
On the stage, we were playing the Magnificat.
Inside, we were flying in other-worldly ecstasy.
By 10:00 that night, I could swear the Maestro was there,
listening and sometimes playing with us.
Years later, on the other side of the continent,
one of my private pleasures is playing the Bach Cello Suites
late at night, with no one listening.
And sometimes, by the ocean
with the moon glowing towards full,
the old man whispers to me.

— Diane Frank