Both Sides Now


Vision of Hildegard von Bingen

Have you ever heard of the lily and poinsettia club?   That is what you call people who only go to church on Easter and Christmas.   I’m not quite sure what I would be called since I only go to church on All Saints Day and Christmas.  All Saints day has some of my favorite hymns and it commemorates my first baby steps on the pilgrim’s path.    This service is dedicate to those who died in the past year and I wanted to continue honoring my father-in-law who died in February.  I attend church Christmas Eve so I can sing all the Christmas Carols with all the verses.  I’m very fond of the “smells and bells” of formal services and it brings back such happy memories of when I went to church every Sunday.

During the All Saints service, I learned of a concert the next night by Chanticleer, an all male unaccompanied chorus of 12 men singing all the parts from soprano to bass.   They sing everything from Gregorian chants to modern spirituals and everything in between some written and arrange just for Chanticleer    I have heard many recordings and was always impressed with the pure voices and unique harmonies.

A group of six friends went to the concert.  We found seats together on the side of the church.   We weren’t facing the singers but the sound was perfect.    No amplification, no instruments, just the magic of well trained voices, the closest thing in my mind to the sounds of “heaven”.    Every piece was exquisite and I could have heard the entire concert a second time.

Two songs particularly moved me that night,  both written by women 900 year apart.  The first song was by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179).  A mystic, healer, composer and Abbess, Hildegard’s visions and music brought the “unseen” into everyday reality.  In one of her later visions, Hildegard wrote of a human astride two spheres, the microcosm and the macrocosm, the seen and the unseen.  The beautiful long lines of O Frondens Virga definitely allowed me to enter the unseen.

One of the last songs on the program was an arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s classic Both Sides Now.  The etheric, haunting quality to this ballad sent me straight back to the unseen like Hildegard’s music had.   The song stayed with me for weeks, a constant reminder that I live in both side now, astride the two spheres.    The invisible is just as real as the visible, the magic and the mundane exist together.   Heaven and Earth are always with me.



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