Choral Stream

Sing to Inspire: Wanting Memories

Dr. Ysaye Barnwell leading a group in songcourtesy the artist

Sing to Inspire: Wanting Memories


January 04, 2016

I still vividly remember that moment of holding my mother in the cradle of my arms, rocking her gently as I read Psalm 23 through my tears. She had just departed this world after a hard battle with breast cancer and I was angry, confused, and broken. I couldn't process how this happened so quickly, let alone how to comprehend never hearing her voice again.

Years passed and I was still angry. I didn't understand or accept the way she chose to fight cancer. It was selfish, and an overly-simplified way to handle such a complex issue. Didn't she understand that she was needed to hold me until the storms of life were gone?

More time passed, and I eventually healed, but I never stopped asking this question to friends and colleagues that were in the midst of the battle; How do you choose to fight cancer? Well, I asked composer and activist Dr. Ysaye Barnwell that question last week during our interview and her answer shocked me. Barnwell, with great conviction, looked at me and said, "I do not resist this, I just move with it." After that answer, it hit me. My mother wasn't selfish, I was. For years I sought answers that hopefully reinforced my belief on how my mother incorrectly chose to fight cancer. She chose to fight it in her way, just like Dr. Ysaye Barnwell.

Ysaye is quite possibly one of the most inspiring beings I have ever come across. Her soul burns with passion and her eyes shimmer with hope. As I sat there for a few moments watching Barnwell and Cantus veteran, Paul John Rudoi, share inspiring memories, I began to feel nostalgic and wanted to join in the fun. We talked, we laughed, and when Ysaye began talking about her iconic composition, Wanting Memories, we all cried. It started with her sharing one of her few memories of her father giving her a lesson that wasn't music related. "If you want to win against your opponent, you must use your opponent's resistance against himself", exclaimed Ysaye! We all sat there quietly as she began to elaborate and weave the story of memories, music, and life together. And then it happened. She began reading the text of Wanting Memories. After she was done, there was nothing left to be said. Our lives had been changed by the powerful force that is Dr. Ysaye Barnwell.

To hear the complete story about how Ysaye Barnwell learned to live with cancer in this week's episode of Sing to Inspire, click the audio player above.

#SingToInspire Performance of the Week
Wanting Memories - Ysaye Barnwell
Cantus, performer