Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Nun and Me ...

Here's a story.

If you ever take a class in music history and wonder if Gregorian Chant will ever be of use to you ...

I was on a plane in 1980, seated directly across from some nuns, some of whom I had overheard in the terminal talking to a priest about the conference they had attended and their return trip to Ireland. The one right across was a lovely, kind-looking woman of around 50, with thick, waist-length, metallic sterling silver hair. It was stunning. And the one next to her was one of those sad, bitter old prunes I was just exactly unfortunate enough to have studied under in college.

So I looked across at her amazing hair and she scowled. And I smiled a smile I thought said "Oh hey, no, I know you're a nun, and..." and she scowled. So how best to proceed? "Say, sister, I overheard some of your colleagues discussing ..." ? Sigh.

Without any further thought, I picked up a magazine and started "idly" whistling the chant version of Ave Maris Stella. After the first three notes she looked across and beamed, though I gave her only a few sidelong glances as I struggled to whistle the rest of it through a smile. The whole rest of the flight we kept looking across, shrugging, smiling, chuckling. It was three hours of the most enjoyable conversation I've ever had, and neither of us spoke a word. When we got to my stop I got up and shook both her hands, both of us laughing happily, and said "Safe journey, Sister!" And I gave a little nod to the other one. When I turned around to get my bag I heard the other one say "Who was that!?" And she replied simply, (the only time I heard her lovely Irish accent), "A friend."

So yeah. If you ever need a medieval hymn to flirt with an Irish Catholic nun on an airplane, an intimate knowledge of Gregorian Chant is just the ticket! I speak from experience.