The Corona Chronicles – Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro – an Italian term meaning “Light and Dark”, used in Art (according to Wikipedia) to describe “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.” The term originated during the Renaissance, and the reason the word came to my mind was because, amongst other activities designed to bring a little light into the cultural darkness brought about by the current pandemic, I am taking a course on Renaissance Art (together with the Bible and Music courses I have been taking for several years now, and which I have mentioned in previous posts).

There has been a lot of debate about “distance learning”, and whether it can sufficiently fill the vacuum left by the closing of schools during the present lockdown, as well as previous lockdowns. I mentioned in my last post, that we are again in lockdown – although that was a lockdown with so many holes, it is debatable whether the word was even applicable. As of midnight last Thursday, we are supposed to be in a “complete” lockdown – this time, including schools. But it is unclear how widespread it will be in some sectors (such as the ultra-Orthodox religious sector), besides which, an unknown number of businesses have declared they will remain open, preferring the fear of substantial fines to that of bankruptcy. My personal opinion about these lectures on Zoom is that their efficacy greatly depends (as does any educational venture) on the quality of the lecturer. It is hard to sit for hours in front of a computer screen and listen to a lecture, especially if the lecture is pre-recorded. The Bible and Music courses I am taking are fascinating, even if the Music lecture is pre-recorded. That’s because the lecturers are involved with their listeners. But the lecturer in the Art course (also pre-recorded) appears to be reading a prepared script and she does so in a very dry tone which I find quite soporific.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we have managed to keep choir activity going. As there is a limit to how effective an online rehearsal can be, the Choir committee decided to add some variety, by inviting the Choir’s artistic team (the conductors) and others, (professional musicians and academics) to lecture to the Choir on various subjects, such as The Dimension of Time in Music, Hebrew Cantillation of the Bible, Music of the Livorno Synagogue etc. Last Wednesday, instead of a rehearsal, we had an interesting, short lecture on the composer Olivier Messiaen.

In short, I have been keeping myself busy. I had a rehearsal, or a lecture, every day last week so far and on Thursday, I even had TWO lectures!

Last Wednesday, I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus – one of the almost 1.9 million Israelis (over 20% of the population) to have been vaccinated so far. At the end of the month, I shall have the second dose – and then we shall see if it works. Meanwhile, I can still see my reflection in the mirror and my canine teeth have not grown any longer, or sharper. I suffer no ill-effects from exposure to sunlight (such as bursting into flame and disintegrating,) nor have I noticed any aversion to garlic 😉 .

But beside these little rays of light, there is still a great deal of darkness abroad. I worry about my brother in England, where the new variant of the virus seems to be rampaging unchecked. I worry about friends in Europe, where there seems to be no let-up in the pandemic. Quite the contrary, in fact. And as for the drama unfolding in what I fear I must henceforth call the Disunited States of America… I shall refrain from commenting, for the time being, if only out of consideration for my own, and my readers’, blood pressure levels. (Remember what I wrote in my last post about Anger.)

Curiously enough, my YouTube feed last week “recommended” a couple of pieces from a concert we (that is, the combined choirs of Jerusalem Oratorio) gave a couple of years ago, under the title “From Darkness to Light”. The name seems peculiarly fitting for these times, and so, to end this week’s post, I bring you the two main items from the concert. The first, representing, I suppose, the Darkness, is Requiem by the Canadian-Israeli composer, Aharon Harlap. It is not the full Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, but a version tailored for a Jewish-Israeli choir and audience, without the Credo, Pie Jesu or Agnus Dei sections. In many aspects though, I found it reminiscent of the Fauré Requiem, especially in the opening section.

I will end my first post of 2021 with the “Light” section of that concert – selections from Haydn’s Creation – and with the traditional Priestly Blessing:

May the Lord bless you and guard you.
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up His countenance unto you, and give you Peace.

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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9 Responses to The Corona Chronicles – Chiaroscuro

  1. CATachresis says:

    I’ve been doing distance learning during lockdown – a genealogy course – and have found it very helpful. It’s a matter of seeking out the good from the bad in online courses I guess. Some media here have been lauding Israel for your efficient vaccine programmes. Here as you intimated, we are in severe lockdown, mainly because of idiots who think the rules do not apply to them! The virus is spreading even to our island now and there are a good number or cases being reported here. I’ve no idea when we will be offered a vaccine!

    • What is the population of your island, and how many have been infected there with the virus?
      I understand from my brother that the UK has a very complicated system of preferences as to who shall receive the vaccine and when. Here, they already announced that, as of tomorrow, over-55-year-olds can start making appointments to be vaccinated. How effective it’s going to be is anyone’s guess. I understand the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from catching the virus, but it does prevent you from becoming seriously ill.

  2. CATachresis says:

    We have a population of about 70,000 and to date 1327 cases. Not sure about fatalities. I have just heard from a Welsh government briefing that they hope to have everyone eligible vaccinated by early autumn!!!!! The Welsh Assembly is responsible for NHS Wales so everything regarding COVID that comes from Boris doesn’t apply to us, though there are similarities in the rules. I have lived in Wales on and off since 1987 and am not impressed by the small minded socialism that pervades every aspect of society which stymies business and prevents growth! I’ll get off my soapbox now! lol

  3. Kudos to your vaccine protocol! Although my husband and I are in one of the higher tiers, it’s been painfully slow here. Obviously our rollout hasn’t been as robust as it should have been. I’m hopeful to get it in the next 2 months.

    • How many tiers are there? What is the official order of preference? Does it differ from state to state?

      • I can’t tell because there seem to be sub-tiers too and yes it differs from state to state depending on how much vaccine the state got. My husband can get it now but it’s been impossible to get an appointment. He came after health care workers and nursing home folks. I’m the next round. The rollout was not smooth. They were announcing it was available but there wasn’t any vaccine in my metro area (and I’m not at all rural).

      • Who decides how much each state gets? That seems rather like a postcode lottery.

      • The federal government. There is an algorithm based on population size. Maybe also virus count. Not sure but only 20% of available vaccines have been administered nationwide.

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