ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

Ann Reed’s “Even in Reunion”

A paean to what may be the most beautiful song of the past 100 years

Eternal River/Photo by Marty Winkler

Music critic Robert Christgau once called “Waterloo Sunset,” by Kinks front man Ray Davies, “the most beautiful song in the English language.”

It would definitely be on my short list, and believe me, I have listened to and absorbed a whole lotta songs in my 70+ years.

That short list would also include “Sunrise,” by The Who’s Pete Townsend; Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do,” which has been rendered beautifully over many decades by singers as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Linda Ronstadt, Marty Winkler and Nat “King’ Cole; Anna McGarrigle’s “Heart Like a Wheel”; and Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush,” with it wistful melody and word pictures of “Mother Nature’s silver seed” being whisked away by space ship to “a new home in the sun.”

I’d also consider Rogers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You” and “Bali Hai”; Joni Mitchell’s “River’; Allen Toussaint’s “Performance”; Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come’: Andy Fairweather Lowe’s “Dancing in the Dark,’’ and John Phillips’ “Dancing Bear.” My wife, a prize-winning songwriter herself, nominates Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress.”

But if I really was forced to pick, I think I would have to go with “Even in Reunion,” a transcendent song by Ann Reed, a Minnesota singer-songwriter whom you’ve probably never heard. It touched me deeply the first time I heard it, and if anything, it has gained power and beauty in these past few years of uncertainty and loss.

Reed has written a bunch of memorable songs, including the ingenious, hilarious “Styrofoam,” wherein a resilient mama roach home-schools her babies about the old days when Earth still had human inhabitants. And Reed got a nice burst of national exposure, including a performance spots on NBC’s Today, with her feminist anthem “Heroes,” a litany of women who have inspired her.

But “Even in Reunion,” from her 1993 album Hole in the Day, is the Reed composition that both breaks my heart and brings me peace.

Like a feather riding on a river
Passing by then floating to the dark
A single moment having been delivered
& even in a reunion, there is a parting

A circle ’round & ’round made up of mem’ries
& as we finish then again we start
& at the end, we’re back at the beginning
& even in reunion, there is a parting

Like watercolors bleed red into blue
One day into another love will travel with you

Like a feather riding on a river
& as we journey friendships of the heart
Are carried close within ’til the time we meet again
& even in a reunion, there is parting

They’re carried close within ’til the time we meet again
& even in a reunion, there is parting

Reed told me she wrote “Even In Reunion” while driving. “It isn’t unusual for me to drive around and sing to myself,” she said.

“I honestly can’t say that the phrase ‘even in reunion there is parting’ is original,” she added. “I may have read it somewhere. Honestly, I don’t know.”

I wondered what she would say about the song’s meaning. For me, it’s always been, like Young’s “Goldrush,” a little mysterious, cryptic. It evokes a powerful response in me, but I’m not quite sure why.

“Interesting that you ask,” she said. “I have found with other songs I’ve written that they came along and I didn’t even know fully what I was writing because now, when I sing them, I think: How did know that?”

“‘Even In Reunion’ has deeper meaning for me now that I’m older and in that ‘season of loss,’” she said. “Even as we gather with people, are in contact with people, we don’t know if we will see them or experience them again.”

The transitory nature of existence, reincarnation, duality, ebb and flow — read into her words what you will. The mystery is as beautiful as the melody.

To see more about Ann Reed, please visit www.annreed.com

You can hear “Even in Reunion” on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/trac/6la7IQXApXmJ4xw9vLrFOD

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Noel Holston

Noel Holston

Writer, reader, photographer, horticulturist, international music icon. Lives in the South. Email Noel at nholstonga@gmail.com