Charles Treger’s Truth

Tucked into the heart of an old Houston neighborhood, the Villa de Matel gleams with burnished light. Home to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the convent serves the larger community as a place of worship and retreat as well as being a retirement home for the Sisters.

Its centerpiece is the large Lombard-Romanesque Chapel designed by architect Maurice J. Sullivan. Consecrated in 1928, it’s breathtakingly beautiful with high, vaulted ceilings, German and Irish stained-glass windows, massive marble pillars and intricate tile work.  Like the Rothko Chapel, another Houston landmark, it’s impressive without being ornate and its numinous space shimmers in the silence, inviting visitors to pause, rest and reflect.

Apart from its ambiance, the Chapel is known for magnificent acoustics, making it a perfect venue for musical performance. Last December, I took pleasure in attending one of three Houston Chamber Choir concerts in their Christmas at the Villa series.  The program, a delightful mix of traditional carols, jazz settings of seasonal favorites and sacred choral music, was sold out, and so we arrived early to ensure ourselves the best seats.

Watching the arrival of other music-lovers, I noticed a woman taking her place in the subscribers’ section of the broad main aisle. Elegant in black velvet, she would have been less noticeable had she not been wearing a Santa hat, vibrant and red as the poinsettias trimming the nave. Turning this way and that to greet friends, she set its white pom-pom jiggling and bobbing, an amusing accompaniment to her conversation until, at last, all conversation was hushed and she settled back to enjoy the music.

One of the first selections, by the great Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria, was equal to the splendor of the Chapel.  The music flowed easily, filling the nave with wave after wave of polyphonic delights. As the voices spilled around and through the audience, I was surprised to see tears forming and running down the cheeks of the elegant Santa’s Helper. Dropping inexorably from her chin onto her velvet jacket, the tears glittered like jewels in the warm and glowing light.

She never moved until the music died away into silence.  Then, her shoulders quivered with a quick, almost imperceptible sigh and she lifted both hands to wipe her face. Oblivious to curious glances from the people surrounding her, perhaps still in thrall to the music, she seemed a world away, unembarrassed and not at all ashamed of her open expression of emotion.

Perhaps, I thought, she had met Charles Treger.

My own encounter with violinist Charles Treger took place during my senior year of high school. Having won an essay contest sponsored by our local Representative, John Kyl (R-Iowa), I received an extraordinary prize –  a week-long trip to Washington, D.C. that would provide an opportunity to explore the city and its political processes in the company of Congressman Kyl and his wife, Arlene.

After a turbulent first airline flight from Des Moines, I arrived in Washington and moved into a hotel for the first time in my life.  During the next week I shadowed Representative Kyl through offices, committee meetings and the House chamber. Eventually allowed to wander a bit, I traversed the corridors and tunnels of the Capitol, exploring the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. Obviously, it was a different time and a different city.

As the week progressed, I met dozens of interesting people, some famous and some unknown. I shared the traditional bean soup with Barry Goldwater in the Senate Dining Room and had a memorable meeting with Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. on the House side. I still laugh at Powell’s colorfully-phrased suggestion that I should get myself out of the Iowa cornfields and move to New York.  The mid-60’s may have been the beginning of Powell’s fall, but when I met him, he still was something to behold.

And yet, despite the delight of such memories, these were not the memories which surfaced that night at Villa de Matel.  Watching another woman’s response to the music of Victoria, I thought only of my excursion into Washington social life, the gift of another quite extraordinary concert and its dream-like aftermath, a brief and intensely personal exchange with Charles Treger himself.

At the time of my trip to Washington, Treger recently had won a contest of his own, placing first in the distinguished Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition in November, 1962. He was living in Iowa City, having accepted a professorship at the University of Iowa, and the Iowa connection no doubt explains the Kyls’ interest in his concert. Like Van Cliburn before him, his victory carried political implications, and he would in fact travel in 1969 on a State Department-sponsored tour of fourteen European and Eastern Bloc countries.

Prior to his performance with the National Symphony, we dined at a private home in Georgetown.  I’d been prepared for the courses and cutlery, if not for the brandied figs which appeared to be meant as dessert. In any event, the dinner was memorable, and my companions at table solicitous.  Astonishing as it may seem, I felt accepted rather than patronized, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

After dinner, as we made our way to the DAR Constitution Hall where the concert would be held, one of the Kyls’ friends asked if I’d ever attended such an event.  When I admitted I’d never been to the symphony he said, “Well, my dear… What you must do is not worry about what you’re supposed to do.  Just enjoy yourself.”

And so I did, until halfway through the second half of the program.  During an adagio movement, tears welled up and began streaming down my face.  Of all the things I’d imagined happening to me that night, I hadn’t imagined tears. I was mortified, but eventually I collected myself and no one seemed to have noticed.

After the concert, we stopped at the reception being held for Treger at Blair House. I edged around the room a bit, trying to disappear into the woodwork, until suddenly, standing in front of me, was Charles Treger.  “They tell me you’re with the Kyls,” he said. “What did you think of the concert?”  Perhaps I was disarmed by his own youth, or perhaps it was the directness of his question that led me to blurt out, “I cried”.  He never blinked.  “Good,” he said. “When?”  I told him, “In the second half of the program, during the slow piece.”  He said, “That’s even better.  Just remember – crying at a concert’s never wrong.”  And then he was gone.

Sitting now at my window, watching reflected moonlight skim across the water, turning over and over in my mind an experience already decades old, I would add only this: on a night when he might have been forgiven the inclination to think only of himself, Charles Treger made it a point to speak directly and honestly to a young girl drifting out of her depth at his reception.  Today his action and his words still speak – not only to his character, but also to his understanding of the nature of music and its value in our lives.

Charles Treger’s truth – a truth I cherish and a truth at least one unknown woman seems to have learned in her own way – is that responding to beauty is never wrong.  We need not be embarassed by emotion evoked by music, nor attempt to explain away our response. Whether heard in live performance or carried in our hand, whether filling a cathedral’s soaring space or vibrating the cramped quarters of a daily commute, whether interpreted or improvised, tapped out or sung, when music comes to life it gives life, often in unexpected and quite remarkable ways.

Play the music, not the instrument advise the anonymous teachers – and so we do, however poorly or well.  But now and then, when we least expect it, music also plays us. Touched by music’s loving bow, we discover that we, ourselves, are capable of resonance – in tears, in laughter and in love.


Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

27 thoughts on “Charles Treger’s Truth

  1. Hi Linda:

    Like your velvetly-dressed character at the chapel and your experience in a house lost in Washington D.C., I have also cried while hearing music. Not one time, but several.

    There must be a connection between the frequency of sound and the fibers of the soul. This connection brings out our most intimate feelings and emotions. Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills have the ability of opening my soul and the tear channels of my eyes.

    Thank you for such an inspiring post. Without knowing, you are writing a digital book. Keep those chapters coming.

    Good Day,



    One of the wonders of life is our ability to respond to beauty, and one of life’s mysteries is the intensely personal nature of our responses. You enjoy Callas, Sutherland and Sills. I appreciate their talent and skill, but never would choose to listen to them when I want music for my evening. On the other hand, there surely are artists or selections which touch my heart without fail, but which would leave you saying, “My dear – why do you waste your time listening to that?”

    The good news is that, whatever preferences we have, we’re free to claim them. The better news is that, if we just allow ourselves a little space and time, if we nourish curiousity and receptivity, there are treasures still waiting “out there” equally capable of bringing us joy.


  2. Wow. What a beautiful story. And what a beautiful way to give us all permission to become attached to a moment, and detached from our outside world for a moment. Thanks.


    That’s it, exactly – “attached to the moment… and detached from our outside world…”

    And certainly it happens with more than music. Your words are a perfect description of my experience this weekend while watching the movie “The King’s Speech”. There were times I was moved to tears, and other times I had to remind myself to breathe, so engrossed I’d become in “willing” the King to speak. I’m not sure “Social Network” would have done that for me. ;)

    So nice to see you – best wishes for the still new year!


  3. Shivers down the spine, hairs rising on the back of the neck, stray tears down the cheek …. like you, music can move me.

    I have never felt the same sensations when performing – perhaps I am too involved in making ‘one part’ of the music to actually be aware of the total rendition – but as a member of the audience when the ‘complete piece’ washes over me, now that’s a different matter.

    What a marvellous experience it appears you had, and so many new experiences to store away in your memory files. If your writing skills were discovered when you were in High School – how come you took decades to come back to it?

    Beautifully put together and written, as usual.


    My instrument well into my college years was the clarinet, and like you I’ve experienced music very differently as performer and listener. At least in my experience, there’s an intensity of focus while performing that mitigates against the kind of “letting go” which a deeper, more emotional response demands.

    On the other hand, I’ve heard musicians talk about “becoming one with the music”, and their experience sounds suspiciously like those we’ve talked about here. I certainly wasn’t skilled or talented enough to move beyond the need to focus – sometimes rather grimly – but clearly the experience of a Treger, Sills or Gould is of a different order entirely.

    As for that little question – why so long? I suppose a complete answer would turn into a book. But the short answer is that “good writing” was considered a tool – for getting a job, gaining advancement, winning contests (!) It was nice that people wrote poetry and novels, so English teachers had something to do for the hour we were in their classrooms, but…

    I did begin college by declaring a major in English. But those around me convinced me it wasn’t practical – not nearly so much as nursing or teaching.
    I was intensely shy, with no confidence in my own abilities, and didn’t have what it took to fight directly for what I wanted. So I landed in social work, which after all propelled me off to Africa and into public health. Even though I wasn’t writing, I was gaining experiences to write about.

    And you do realize that the real impetus to begin writing in any kind of serious way came from WU. I’d only begun to blog there as a way to learn html and how to post images. Suddenly, people were saying, “I really enjoyed that post. That was interesting…” The rest, as they say, is history. ;-)


  4. I’ve often wondered at this connection between music and emotion. I have experienced it many times, yet it always catches me by surprise. What wonderful advice the Kyls’ friend gave you when he advised you to not worry about what you’re supposed to do. Beautiful story, Linda, and beautifully told.


    The “surprise factor” is such a part of the fun. Not long ago, a reader suggested I listen to Gordon Bok’s Turning Toward the Morning. I’d heard neither of Bok nor his song, and I had to search a bit to even find Bok’s version on youtube rather than a cover. When I did, I responded so strongly to the music I’ve played it every day since.

    What’s the appeal? The melody? the words? the voice? Probably it’s a combination of all three, combined with the way it connects to certain experiences in my life. In any event, it’s proof positive that you never can predict when the Muse is going to pass by and tap you on the shoulder.

    It’s one of the reasons I love Pandora radio, and streaming radio from around the country generally. You never know what’s going to pop up – it’s horizon broadening at its best!


  5. I’ve heard musicians talk about “becoming one with the music”

    Linda, in 1966 I went to a concert with my first boyfriend. (He eventually became a well-known musician in his own right.) A special guest at this concert was Jacqueline DuPré. I had heard her music on the radio, but to hear her performing live was something else. I attended previous concerts where semi-professional cellists played, but she evoked totally different emotions within me. She made her cello sing.

    Unfortunately, her career was cut short when she found she could no longer play, at the age of just 28. She finally died of the crippling disease, MS, at the young age of 38. She had been renowned worldwide for her emotive performances and once told a reporter, ‘Playing lifts you out of yourself into a delirious place’. (That’s it, exactly – a kind of delirium.)

    There is only one cellist I have heard since, who comes anywhere near to her talent for making the cello sing, and that is Julian Lennon. I’ve heard his music on TV and CD, but I would love to hear him perform live.


    Thanks to you, I’ve just spent some enjoyable time exploring DuPré’s story and her playing. There’s an hour-long video that’s been uploaded of DuPré, Perlman, Zuckerman, Mehta and Barenboim in London, performing Schubert’s Trout quintet. It’s absolutely delightful – not only for the performance itself, but also for the casual documentary footage surrounding it. I was especially taken by Zubin Mehta sitting in the garden, playing “Rock-a-bye, Baby” for his toddler.

    It must have been anguish for her to literally lose her “touch” a bit at a time as the disease took over her body. Still, as the reviewer of the latest film notes, “For Jackie, music was about life: playing the cello was the way she expressed what life meant to her…even after playing the cello was in the past for her, music was still her native language.”

    The beauty is that no translations are necessary.


  6. Acoustics…I’ve seen television interviews with some of the old doo wop singers who said they used to meet in the subway stations because of the acoustics bouncing off the tiled walls.

    You and I have talked before about how a couple of notes of a song can bring back long-forgotten memories. We ‘strolled across the floor’ once.

    This evening, if it’s not clouded over, go out in the back yard and look in the eastern sky and you might not remember that the Capris sang it but you’ll instantly hear every note of “Theeere’s A Mooooon out tonight.”


    I’m not sure how you managed it from Panama, but you cleared every cloud from the sky after days of overcast and fog. You’d better believe there was a moon out there tonight – and the Capris knew how to sing about it. Not only that, there were stars, too – just like the ones these guys in the subway sang about. Not bad -almost as good as the Persuasions’ “Street Corner Symphony”.

    But look at this, from your old stomping grounds. No more Doo Wop at the Yogurt Shop? That’s just wrong!


  7. How did I grow up in Houston and not know about this? Ray Miller let me down!


    Oh, shoot. Ray probably was out at an armadillo barbeque or chasing the Marfa lights again and missed it. ;-)

    More seriously, it may be that while he was doing his thing, the Villa wasn’t as accessible. I’m not sure when public concerts became more common there, but the Houston Chamber Choir was established in 1995, and may have been the first professional group to perform. There are a few more concert videos on youtube, such as the Houston Children’s Choir and the Woodlands High School choir, but they’re from 2009/2010. It wouldn’t surprise me to know that the Sisters have been very selective about allowing access.

    I first became aware of its existence in the ’80s. I occasionally got into the Lawndale area and would meet friends for lunch at the Dinnerbell Cafe. The Villa’s just down the street, and we’d notice it, although we noticed mostly walls and gates. It’s a tremendous gift to the city that they’ve made their Chapel available for events like these.


  8. Forgive me, Linda, if I repeat a little bit of wisdom I picked up through my spiritual direction coursework that fits so well here: “follow the trail of tears in order to encounter the heart’s truth.”

    Your story of encounter with two who celebrated truth and beauty and tears, so many years later, also feels numinous. I’m not at all surprised that it was these moments you chose to hold up to the light for our examination and pleasure.

    I am richer for your sharing.


    I think it’s a shame that we’ve come to associate tears only with sorrow. Clearly, they can be a sign of an overflowing heart.

    I used to have a friend who’d become distraught at any sign of tears. We weren’t the best match, since I’ve been known to cry at that touching Liberty Mutual commercial. “Are you crying again?” my friend would ask. “Nope,” I’d say. “I’m just leaking emotion.”


  9. This is a very moving account of your experience. Thank you for sharing, Linda. Your animated yet gentle description of the velvet lady… that in itself is so touching, even without the music. And your own resonance after listening to the rendition of beautiful music performed by a talented musician – that is a gift, isn’t it? They all are: the music itself is a gift, the skillful rendition is a gift, and the ability to shed tears in response is also a gift!

    On another note (pun intended), I’d like to hear your reactions to the music of The King’s Speech, esp. the climax and the ending… since there are many reverberations that it’s “German music” in the background. (Even just yesterday, I received a comment from a piano teacher from the UK questioning its appropriateness.)


    I’d add one other gift to your list – the gift of memory. Without it, history would be nothing more than disconnected events, and the ability to find new significance in past events would vanish.

    As for the score – after my comments about Hopper’s “People in the Sun”, this may not surprise you, but I can’t offer much of a reaction to the music because I didn’t hear it. Oh, of course it was there and I probably did “hear” it in the most basic sense, but I apparently experienced it as irrelevant. The first music that caught my attention was Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, which played about midway through the credits.

    During the final scenes, I’d been captured so completely by the interaction between Bertie and Logue that I was aware only of facial expressions, the words, and so on. As I mentioned to someone afterward, I had to remind myself to breathe from time to time as I willed the King through the next phrase – particularly those “p’s”! Someone questioned the music because of it’s “Germanic nature”? Well, that’s silliness of the highest order – at least in my opinion. I feel about that much as I feel about the recent move to expurgate “Huckleberry Finn”, but that’s another discussion for another time.

    I am fascinated by the interactions among people engaged in “making art” – whether in film, drama or music. It’s one of the things that makes chamber music so interesting to me, and the reason I’ll be watching that final scene between King George VI and Logue more than a few times.

    One of the best examples I’ve found is a studio recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras in “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story”. I never tire of watching the intensity, the depth of communication, the interaction. And the voiceover of Bernstein reflecting on the experience is wonderful. You’ll enjoy it.


  10. That’s exactly the kind of emotional response music should evoke in the ear of every listener.

    I loved reading about your experience. I have nothing to rival it in all my years of listening to and making music. But I have been lucky enough to have small glimpses of the kind of power that music making can bring to the performer and the audience. It’s a kind of magic, and I feel privileged to take part in it on occasion.


    Even the small glimpses are worth having. After all, I carried around the experience with Mr. Treger for decades. Later, I came across the saying – “Play the music, not the instrument” – and couldn’t get it out of my mind for years. But it took the addition of the third element – the concert at the Villa – to help me think of them in a different way.

    It’s that “kaleidoscope effect” I like to talk about. All the bits and pieces of experience were there. I just had to give an extra twist to help them fall into a new pattern.

    Your comment about feeling privileged to participate in the occasional magic reminded me of Annie Dillard’s words: “”I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” We may not know when it will happen, but we know it can happen, and when it does it’s marvelous.


  11. …”music sometimes plays us…” Oh, and thank God it does. A wonderful line…a truism, indeed.

    I love the lady in velvet and Santa cap. She has reassured me it’s ok to cry. I always do during music in sacred places. Maybe it’s the combination; maybe it’s the miracle of all of us wrapped up in music at the same time, at that moment; and yes, as you refer, it alludes to a childhood too, a deep and rich time where many are fortunate to have, play and experience music.

    My brother still can’t get through an entire Christmas hymn in church without choking up a little or getting a bit teary…yup, we’re music sensitive and sentimental. His wife laughs (lovingly) but I so get it. Same way. And you, having read this wonderful light beamed back into your childhood, must “get it,” too.


    When I think back to the Christmas candlelight services of childhood, I remember loving them, but not being moved by them. Now, I’m much like your brother – a carol service or midnight Mass will stir emotion. I suspect a soupçon of nostalgia is stirred in, as well – music and memory make a powerful dish.

    Tears aren’t the only response to musical encounters, of course. I still remember receiving my first classical recordings for a birthday. I listened to Beethoven’s 5th and the Debussy, but it was Dvorak’s “From the New World” that I found thrilling. I sat and listened to the third movement over and over – I couldn’t get enough of it. It was exciting, and energetic, and I wanted to be able to play it, too. Eventually I did, and it was immensely satisfying. Now, it’s equally satisfying to be in the audience. I mean – what if they gave a concert and nobody came? ;-)


  12. Yes, thanks for the Leonard Bernstein clip, Linda. Oh, LB: he’s another gift! And his voice-over comment about his daughter Nina’s reaction to the beautiful music, just wonderful. You always come up with all these hidden gems that we’d otherwise never get to enjoy!

    (BTW, your comment on People In The Sun… I just love the free associations you always make… have you read my reply?)


    I knew you’d enjoy it. I’ve watched that clip now and then for perhaps two years. I never tire of it.

    I did see your comment and just laughed – especially at “contrarian”. But the poem seemed to apply, and your added comment about the reader being the one to “see deep” made such sense of the painting. We’re so lucky to be able to build on one anothers’ thoughts this way. And I do think one of the keys to the creativity is the “slowness” of the back-and-forth. The time for reflection and thought makes a difference. The “slow blogging” movement has advantages far beyond the simple writing of entries.


  13. Oh, Linda — I must share this with Rick, who loves music so deeply. I’m not sure which has touched me most — your story of discovering the symphony as a young woman and the generosity of a young artist and his words of wisdom; or that of the woman in velvet, who simply “felt.”

    I can remember tears more than once when I’ve listened to music. And I never regret them.


    Your mention of Rick reminds me again of his accident, and that reminds me of a group I just learned about – Musicians On Call. Their mission is bringing both live and recorded music to patients in health care facilities – bedside performances, as well as what they call “CD pharmacies”. They began in New York, but they’ve expanded into Houston and are developing a presence at the Texas Medical Center. The commercial that’s currently running on Houston radio talks about the relationship between music and emotion, and the healing music can release. It’s a wonderful concept.

    No regrets here, either. Not any more.


  14. In response to Becca’s comment above, you wrote, “It’s that “kaleidoscope effect” I like to talk about. All the bits and pieces of experience were there. I just had to give an extra twist to help them fall into a new pattern.”

    That’s a wonderful explanation, and I think it illustrates why I enjoy your blogs so much. Your words always invite me to gather up little bits of experience from my own life and to see them in a new pattern. Understanding myself and my life experiences in these different ways has enriched my everyday.

    I also find that I have opportunities to share insights from your writings with others. (Often my mother wonders, “Is this a problem – or just a fact of life?”) You drop a pebble in the pond, and I follow the ripples.


    Your comment sent me back into the archives. I can’t believe it’s been two years since I wrote the New Year’s entry entitled “Kaleidoscope Eyes”. Those two years have confirmed for me some of the assertions I made in that post, and I don’t think I could say it any better.

    I remember how delighted I was to come across Rosabeth Kanter, whom I quoted there: “Rosabeth Kanter, a specialist in strategy, innovation and leadership for Harvard Business School, knows a thing or two herself about fresh starts, and she understands the power of kaleidoscopic images. ‘Creativity’, says Ms. Kanter, ‘is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility.'”

    When I discovered Ms. Kanter and I had reached the same conclusions about the usefulness of the kaleidoscope metaphor, and had done so quite independently, I was astonished. It gave me new confidence in my thought processes, and an increased willingness to follow them without checking to see what “everyone else” might have to say about the subject at hand.

    Believe it or not, I just used that “problem or fact of life?” bit again the other day. Every time I look down at my still-untied shoelaces, I just laugh.

    I’m smiling, now. It surely is good to have you stop by. We’ve done a lot of pebble-tossing in these past years.


  15. Reading you is a real delight and a gift, Linda. Thank you so much.

    As a foreigner, I realize once more what a beautiful and subtle language English is ! I really felt I was sitting there in the chapel waiting for the concert to start while discreetly watching an elegant lady in rouge et noir. ;) I liked how your story unfolded with your own experience at another memorable concert.

    There would be a lot to tell about music and emotion. One particular piece of music touches me whenever I listen to it. Tears of happiness and gratitude for the composer and musician: it is Mozart´s Clarinet Concerto in A, K622, adagio. It moves me deeply. No words could explain the emotion, I just let it play and enjoy.


    I fear sometimes we’re allowing our language to dissolve, or to be torn apart. That you should speak of English as “beautiful and subtle” after reading this, and that you should have felt yourself in the chapel is a wonderful compliment. I thank you for that.

    I enjoy Mozart generally, and the Concerto is splendid. My personal favorite is the first movement, but my approach is the same as yours. I let it play, and enjoy the experience. It doesn’t require explanation or analysis, although each has its place and can contribute to our appreciation.

    Wouldn’t Mozart be amazed to find us listening to his music in such a way!


  16. Linda,

    A beautiful post about letting art move us! I think there are windows where we can “get it”: feel what Life is. These are a few windows that have moved me to tears:

    Every time: Beethoven’s Ninth, Fourth Movement, even during 8-track experiences.

    When Emily expresses what she misses about life in “Our Town,” whether I’m reading the play or trying not to let my racking sobs distract others in the audience.

    Sippy Wallace’s laughing after singing her “Woman Be Wise” with Bonnie Raitt.

    Watching a child engrossed in something.

    One morning, in the late Seventies, when my radio alarm went off to “The Hammond Song” by the Roches instead of a NYC traffic report. It was like the sun kissing a non-morning person awake.



    You’ve pushed a little more explicitly toward something I alluded to in earlier comments. While “great” music may move us, it’s also possible for us to carry in our hearts the most ordinary song. While “great” events, the extraordinary in life, may move us to tears, quite ordinary days are equally capable of evoking response.

    I just read this afternoon a lovely, descriptive post by Gregory Sullivan about neighbors shoveling snow for one another in Western Maine. What could be more ordinary? And yet, the simple decency and attentiveness of the behavior he described evoked an upwelling of tears – it was a different kind of beauty, but beautiful nonetheless.


  17. “Sometimes the music plays us.” Yes, oh yes, it does. When a note, a chord, a crescendo (a pianissimo, even) is sung or played so clearly, so deeply that it resounds through every bone, that is music at the height of its power. How could a person not cry?

    Oh, that wonderful woman in the Santa hat! Oh, that lucky, wide-eyed girl in Washington–who saw, and heard, and felt. And learned from the musician himself that all of that was important, even necessary. Marvelous piece. Thank you!


    Perhaps my favorite mantra – “Everything counts”. The big, the small, the perfect and the imperfect – the velvet and jewels, the Santa hat and those truly abysmal figs. It all counts, and it’s all part of the music.

    When I was a child growing up in the Methodist church, we frequently sang the old hymn, “This is My Father’s World”. The one line that’s stayed with me contains the words, “…and round me rings the music of the spheres”. That’s the music that plays us, if we’re lucky and open and attentive enough. And if we begin to resonate – we add our voices to the song, as in your poetry.

    Here’s to a new year filled with resonance!


  18. Oh, dang…. I got the sniffles, just reading this. Right where Charles Treger spoke with you.

    Music, happy/sad endings in books and movies will turn on my tap. I’ve seen The Color Purple countless times and still squall like a baby when Miss Celie is reunited with her sister, son and daughter.

    There is one song in particular that is so lovely, it used to move me to tears every time I heard it: O Holy Night. That soaring soprano. Oh….

    Others, when played back on my internal 8 track, are connected with someone or some event, happy or sad, and will momentarily cause my eyes to well up. Sometimes, at unexpected moments; such as the middle of the work day, causing much consternation amongst my coworkers.

    I just keep the tissues handy!


    I still haven’t quite figured out what it was about “The King’s Speech” that did me in so completely, although I have some suspicions. I’m going to have to re-watch that one carefully, and I predict more tears. Like you with “The Color Purple”, knowing what the film is “about” or knowing what’s coming next doesn’t necessarily diminish the emotional impact.

    I’m fascinated by something I’ve just noticed. We’ve all been talking about our emotional response to music, film, drama, and speeches. There’s been some mention of books and poetry, but nothing about photography, painting and sculpture. I can’t remember ever being moved to tears by a painting or photograph. The natural world, sometimes, but not depictions of it. It’s a mystery, for sure. It would be interesting to know what the experience of photographers and painters is. Perhaps they respond to the world and to those mediums differently.

    Well, you just keep playing those tapes, and if you run out of tissues, I’ll send some along!


  19. I so enjoy the symphony, but it’s been years since I’ve been. When I was in grade school they took us four times a school year to the Dayton Philharmonic to introduce us to concert style music. Many found it boring, but I reveled in it. Music is a large part of my life.

    I particularly like your top image. You’ve managed to include so much of the structure.


    What a wonderful opportunity for young children, to experience the symphony. I didn’t mention it in the post, but the Houston Chamber Choir was joined in concert by the Treble Choir of Houston, a group for kids 9-16 that draws from across the city and provides tuition-free instruction. They clearly were enjoying their musical experience, too.

    The Villa’s Chapel is a photographers’ delight – and even non-photographers (that would be me) can take lovely pictures. I think the openness helps, because no matter the level of the light, it tends to be even. I’m glad you enjoyed the image.


  20. “Play the music, not the instrument advise the anonymous teachers – and so we do, however poorly or well. But now and then, when we least expect it, music also plays us. Touched by music’s loving bow, we discover that we, ourselves, are capable of resonance – in tears, in laughter and in love.”

    Lovely ending to a stunning piece. You write so well, and take me right there, with you.

    I am very unmusical, but have cried at concerts. Been ashamed of it, because I did not understand the music, just felt it.

    Thanks for pointing out that music is a language that requires no translation, and that I must have realised and responded to it at some level, and that it is ok to cry when moved by music.


    Faulkner once said, “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other”. I’ve always loved the quotation because it seems so – well, true.
    We can learn every sort of fact about a poet, a novelist, a painter or a musician and still miss the essential truth of their work.

    There’s much about music I don’t understand. I can tell an adagio from an allegretto – that’s easy. And I can tell the difference between a sonata and a fugue. But anyone can learn those facts, rather easily if they’re interested. What’s not so easy is to be receptive to music, to allow it touch us, to be encountered by its truth.

    I think the advice given to me by my dinner companion in DC is good on several levels – especially when paraphrased as “don’t worry about what you’re supposed to know – just enjoy”.

    And I always enjoy having you stop by!


  21. Linda,
    What a wonderful experience for you.

    It’s true. Responding to beauty is never wrong. When H and I walked onto a deserted beach last fall, I was overwhelmed by the beauty. I found myself crying. I was so moved.

    How wonderful for you that you had the opportunity to experience such beauty at such a tender age, and it wasn’t lost on you.


    I remember your vacation, the lovely photo of the beach and your mention of how extraordinarily moving the experience was for you. A line from Cohen’s “Hallelujah” just came to mind: “her beauty overthrew you”. That’s what the beach did for you and that’s where we are – creatures capable of being overthrown by beauty every minute of our lives, if only we’ll open ourselves to it.

    Maybe that’s why music has the power to touch so many people. It’s one of the few times we’re willing to shut up and stop thinking about ourselves. ;-)


  22. Hello Linda,
    I came across your article, “Charles Treger’s Truth” and I had to respond. My name is Robin and I am Charles Treger’s eldest daughter. I was so moved by your writing and my father has seen this, as well. He is not well versed in blogging, posting, and such but he wanted me to let you know that he was moved to tears, as was I, by this writing. Thank you for your words and a story that I will tell for many years to come.
    Best regards,


    I am moved to tears myself – I am so grateful that you found the story. After I wrote it, I spent hours trying to track down your father so that I could send him a link, but I kept hitting dead ends. I even sent emails to some faculty members who would have worked with him or known him, but it just didn’t work.

    I noticed when I came home tonight and checked my stats that someone had found my post through a search. I just cannot believe that it was you.

    That brief encounter with your father has been a touchstone of my life. That I should have found a way to tell him that, after all these decades, is one of its greatest blessings. My very best to you, and to him.

    regards, Linda

  23. Hi Linda,

    I was here yesterday and left a comment but as I hit enter my computer froze so I had a feeling it did not take. I am glad I got to your blog to find out about this story. I must have been one of the ones I missed in the middle of my crazy January.

    How delightful that the daughter found this story about her Father Charles Treger!

    And the trip you got to make as a teenager to Washington DC and all you experienced is just awesome!
    Those are memories for ever. You were a very lucky young lady!

    Thank you for sharing another great adventure with us.



    Every now and then someone asks me, “Which is your favorite post?” That’s a little like asking “Which of your children is your favorite?”. I must say, though, that this is absolutely in the top five – for the remembering, the writing and the response.

    As for the trip, it was delightful. I didn’t take many photos – none that I can find – but in the end, it really didn’t matter. There are some things a photograph just can’t capture.


  24. Charles Treger got to me the same way every time I heard him with the Bach Aria Group, particularly in the tenor/violin aria from Cantata 97. I wonder if he is still around?

    1. David,

      As far as I know, yes, he is. He’s living quite a private life now after so many years of being in the public eye, which is perfectly understandable.

      You may have noted his daughter’s comment, above. A click or two will take you to her facebook page, and her place of employment. If you wanted, you could contact her there.

      Thanks so much for the visit. It’s been wonderful for me to re-read this post, and renew the memories.


  25. I was listening to a radio performance of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy tonight and remembered Charles Treger’s performance of it in Aspen so many years ago. His charismatic personality and artistry brought the piece to life in a way that I’ve not heard since. It has stayed with me.
    He also had led an Aspen Quartet for a couple seasons that, with him on first violin, played like an established quartet. Later he came to Baltimore for a recital wth Richard Goode. I spoke with him afterward; he mentioned that they hadn’t rehearsed the Mozart sonata (e minor?) at all, but that they both knew it. I thought it was a bit on the fast side, but I didn’t mention that.
    Tonight I decided to see where he was and happily found your site.
    Thanks for your doing this.
    Arthur Lewis, partly retired violist

    1. Arthur, I’m so pleased that you found this, and took the time to comment. I haven’t read the post in some time, myself. Clearly, my encounter with Mr.Treger was memorable, as was his music. It’s been delightful for me to revisit both my own memories and this piece of writing.

      One of the great pleasures I take in blogging is the occasional encounter with people who have some personal connection to my subjects You surely do, and I’m glad you found my own remembrance of a fine man. Best wishes for the New Year, and for continuing enjoyment of music.

      best regards,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.