Meridian Herald's 'Confluence' of music, literature, nature and spirituality

“Confluence 2022” presented by Meridian Herald is from Sept. 10-17. (Photo courtesy of: Meridian Herald)

Meridian Herald is an Atlanta organization that combines music, history, literature, science and spirituality. Their principal performance medium is the Meridian Chorale, conducted by Dr. Steven Darcy.Confluence 2022” is a week-long event presented by Meridian Herald, and from Sept. 10-17, they will host several events with a focus on environmental justice and climate change through the lens of the arts.

A new oratorio by composer Steven Darcy will premier at Symphony Hall on Saturday evening. To talk about their contributions, three “Confluence 2022” participants joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom, including renowned author and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times Margaret Renkl, Georgia-based award-winning author Janisse Ray, and the celebrated Atlanta-based actor and retired Emory professor Brenda Bynum.

Interview highlights:

An oratorio inspired by Sydney Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn:”

“I had the good fortune of going to Ossabaw Island in 2006 with a small group of supporters of Steven Darcy, and it was to create an atmosphere in which he could begin the deep creative work of the oratorio,” said Bynum. “We stayed there in the old dormitory, and every morning we would drive a truck out into the wilderness and drop him off among the alligators to commune alone all day long. It was a scary thing, because you could hear armadillos running through the dry palmetto leaves. It was weird.”

Bynum continued, “We would come back and enjoy the day, and at night we would read aloud ‘The Marshes of Glynn.’ Sometimes I read it alone; other times I would make everyone there sit in a circle and read it together, and it was an extraordinary experience to be in on the very beginning of the heart of this glorious music, and it is indeed glorious. It is our literary tradition. It’s the beauty of our coast. It’s everything.”

Two writers, Ray and Renkl, in conversation with Dr. Dwight Andrews Sept. 11:

“I call myself a nature writer, an environmental writer, and that’s because I’m at heart a repairer, a restorer. I believe that life is mythic. I believe that all of us can lead great mythic lives; lives in which we all learned to be more human, and part of being human is being in direct and intimate relationship with the Earth, the beings of the Earth, the spirits of the Earth and so forth,” said Ray. “The two are married in my mind. I know that most literature experts would say not to do this, to have an agenda with your work, but I always have. I think stories are transformative.”

“My ultimate goal in the writing I do for the New York Times is to persuade people that they are not powerless in the face of so much devastation that is human wrought, and that is unfairly distributed – the suffering is unfairly distributed,” said Renkl. “It’s just too easy for people to say, first of all, ‘That’s not my fault.’ And second of all, ‘It’s not my problem.’ So if we can, as environmental writers and editors and poets and painters and libretto composers, all of those things, if we can help to wake people up, that is really the only thing left to do anymore for the human race.”

Margaret Renkl’s inspiring conversation with the late Congressman John Lewis:

“Congressman Lewis won the National Book Award… and I had already set up an interview with him related to that particular award,” recounted Renkl. “In the middle of all of that was the 2016 presidential election, which just completely destroyed me, and just the idea that so much progress was about to be completely erased, not just in the environment, but in social justice issues…. I asked Congressman Lewis, as part of the interview, how he held on; how he managed to maintain hope when so much of what he has worked towards, what he had spent his entire life working for, kept being chipped away.”

She went on, “I was so embarrassed. I just started crying, and tears were rolling down my cheeks and as he spoke…. He just spoke about how this is how justice always works. It’s never a straight line. To echo the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice, but that doesn’t mean it’s a smooth arc or that there are never any stops and starts any backward twists. But he truly believed that we were better than we have been before, and that we will be better still. We just have to keep the faith.”

“Confluence 2022,” an event series organized by Meridian Herald, takes place throughout Atlanta from Sept. 10-17. A full schedule of events can be found at