As mentioned, I am going to break some traditions by splitting my new year’s list of the music choices into segments. Normally, I think about the world and the events of the year that is passing, but the whole world has been hit by the handling of the health issues. So, while in times past, I might have chosen something unique to a country that has been impacted by events, this year, I am starting the farewell with “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables. I was very fortunate to have seen an excellent live performance of Les Miserables in Australia in 1990, and also to have seen a few different TV versions as well as the film.

The particular performance I chose is more emotionally poignant than the typical interpretations. Credit in part goes to my old friend Gigi who recommended a different aria, but I stumbled on other links to Jonathan Antoine. For those who do not know him, he got his jump start on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 and has been a rising star ever since. The cellist is Chinese-born Tina Guo, a nationalized American.

Though Les Miserables is set at the time of the French Revolution, there are parallels today in which millions of dissidents are struggling with abuse of power. There is however a personal side to our politics, and it is the price we pay for our beliefs and the losses we experience as a result. In terms of the last two years, these losses have been largely attributed to a microscopic organism, but we have all experienced empty chairs and empty tables: in our homes, places of study and work, or in our social life in general.

The lyrics are worth posting as they truly speak to our losses:

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone

Here they talked of revolution
Here it was they lit the flame
Here they sang about tomorrow
And tomorrow never came

From the table in the corner
And they rose with voices ringing
They could see a world reborn
And I can hear them now
The very words that they had sung
Became their last communion
On this lonely barricade at dawn

Oh my friends, my friends forgive me
That I live and you are gone
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on

Phantom faces at the windows
Phantom shadows on the floor
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more

Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me
What your sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more


As this year passes, it my hope that our prayers will live on and that our family and friends will once more visit and fill those empty chairs and that new friends will appear who gently remind us that we who survived still have destinies to fulfill.

Copyright by Dr. Ingrid Naiman 2021
First Posted to Subscribers on 29 December 2021


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