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Surprising Firsts

December 11, 2011
Silent Night at Grove City College

Photo by Andy Drabic

In a life filled with rehearsals, performances, excellent music and art, and wickedly talented and brilliant colleagues, I admittedly forget my surroundings on a fairly regular basis. Yes, I know how to get to Carnegie Hall and while it remains one of my favorite halls in which to sing, walking onstage now feels normal, as does sitting behind a world-class orchestra, conducted by a beloved and famous conductor.

Despite my comfort with this rather unusual life, this month has surprised me in the simplest ways, stirring again my sometimes spoiled heart, mind, and spirit. Earlier this fall, I transitioned to working with a new church choir at the beautiful St. Jean Baptiste on the Upper East Side. Kyler Brown leads a lovely and talented but down-to-earth group, and we traveled together to the small town of Hawley, PA this weekend for what I assumed would be a sweet but run-of-the-mill gig.

Aside from the touching hospitality of our hosts, Kyler and Bill, and the warm, full audience, my ego fully melted away for a moment in the striking company of so many open and welcoming souls. A local writer composed a poem, set to music by Kyler Brown as a lovely hymn dedicated to the town of Hawley. As she read her poetry with the skill of a Shakespearean actor, I found myself transformed into a child, listening to the most fascinating story ever told.

As the final blow to my pampered poise, “Silent Night” made me cry. Seriously. We sang a piece called “Night of Silence” that fits perfectly into the chord structure of “Silent Night,” although it sounds completely different. After the first verse, one of our basses led the audience in “Silent Night,” above the framework of okour song. As waves of honest and simple sound poured over us, tears came to my eyes, and I realized the precious beauty of such a rare moment in time.

Although I too love my television, iPod, computer and subways, I also appreciate how much we lose when we forget that we can sing together, share moments of honest beauty together, and shield ourselves together from the cold in real, present, and alive ways this season. Last night, I had the extreme joy of hearing my dear friend Jen Elliot play solo guitar and sing alone for the first time, on her birthday. Tonight, in the Greek Cathedral concert in which I sang, I enjoyed the bassoon solo for the first time, ever. I couldn’t be happier to have gone out in the cold pre-winter air, when the rewards come so readily and so beautifully.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season, real, present, and full of surprising firsts.

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