The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been so regularly surrounded by familiar faces in my life, that I haven’t often needed to rely on the kindness of strangers.  I say that as if it’s a good thing, which I do believe it is.  There is, however, something surprisingly wonderful about encountering helpful strangers.  Perhaps it’s simply because it’s just that, a surprise.

I spent the past couple of days in Rochester, NY rehearsing and performing for the Kurt Weill Foundation’s annual Lotte Lenya Competition.  It was a solo voyage to an unfamiliar city for an audition I was (and am) deeply invested in.  I was anxious.

In the middle of navigating the city and my nerves, I met a handful of people–men and women of all ages–who paused for a moment to reach out to me.  They gave me mini tours of the town, taught me new dance moves, chatted with me over a drink, took me to lunch, and even cheered me from the audience on the big day.

Combine my Kind Strangers with singing in Eastman’s regal Kilbourn Hall, and I think this past weekend might have changed my opinion of audition trips.  In fact, I might actually start looking forward to them…

NYE

The First Night countdown is skipping right along.  Yesterday, Henry and I rehearsed our music, Ryan and I took a tango lesson with Roxanne, and my musician friends who live upstairs gave their stamp of approval on my new dress.  It’s fancy.

Today, I’m sitting in the Symphony box office.  The glass doors allow me a great view of the falling snow, and Powell Hall is about as festive a place you can find this time of year.  Amidst the chatter of my fellow box officers and visiting patrons, I’m hearing the St. Louis Symphony rehearse its NYE concert (I won’t tell you what they’re playing, or who the special guest is.   It’s top secret.  Suffice it to say, I’m sad I’m missing the concert.)

Staring at the falling snow takes me back a couple of weeks to Berlin and the LaBarge family extravaganza.  We spent days walking around Berlin, where intermittent flakes regularly made the Christmas markets a dusty white.  And hearing our Symphony reminds me of the enthusiastic audiences at the Berlin Philharmonic.  I’ve never seen a group of concert goers celebrate music the way those Berliners did.  The applause for the Brahms Requiem continued long after the Atlanta Symphony Chorus members had closed their mouths, Donald Runnicles had lowered his baton, and the orchestra members had set down their instruments.

Yes indeed, now is a very good time to make and hear and applaud music.  Happy New Year!

Why we sing

Every once in awhile, someone reminds me that the world likes singing.

I had the pleasure of observing a long-time friend of the family the other day.  He stood in front of his Maryville class and community members and led them through a Latin reading of Luke’s Nativity account.  Never have I seen a more genuine celebration of the Giving Season.   I was invited to sing a couple of pieces in Latin to round out the affair…in the university’s library….that hallowed ground where one is not supposed to speak, more or less sing the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria.”  But sing it I did, according to the good Doctor’s wishes.  And halfway through “Adeste Fideles,” some individuals in the group took me up on my offer, and they sang too.  They even thanked me afterward for singing and for letting them sing.  I should have been the one doing the thanking.

I walked away thinking, maybe it isn’t as hard as we think to give and receive.  Sometimes it just  takes driving to Maryville University, listening to a beloved professor engage with his students, and singing.

A day later, the professor and friend told me he’d been thinking about this poem by Wordsworth.  I’m now convinced.  We sing because the world likes it.  Before, during and after.

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain, 5
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands 10
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas 15
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago: 20
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang 25
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listen’d, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill, 30
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Next

I’ve talked to my singing friends, and we all agree that the time immediately preceding a show’s end is sometimes the most challenging.  The goal is to enjoy the production while it’s still in performances, but, oh, there’s that repetitive question, “what’s next?”  It’s the constant balance that I figure every freelancer seeks: arranging the next job while focusing on the current job.

So what is next for me after Unbeatable! closes this Saturday?  Auditions, of course.  Thankfully, there are a few other things on the horizon.  I spent this afternoon working on my French cabaret set for Grand Center’s First Night.   Henry Palkes has agreed to collaborate with me, which means I am a very lucky girl.   After listening to Hugh Macdonald’s lecture on singing and translation a couple of days ago, I’m motivated to try my hand at translating some popular ’20s and ’30s French songs.  Let’s hope the luck carries over.

Moving on

Opera season ended a few weeks ago, Union Avenue Opera’s that is, and now it’s time to enjoy the autumn and all things pumpkin. Rehearsals started yesterday for Unbeatable, which has nothing to do with pumpkins, but everything to do with moving on from opera season. I’m stepping into the musical theater world for the fall, and looking forward to the experience. And tonight I had my first Great Pumpkin of the year. Yum.

It’s a start

I’m slowly branching out into the world of internet communication. This website is still in the works, but I thought I’d finally get moving on it. Funny how getting moving can be so difficult sometimes, particularly when it’s in an unfamiliar direction. I plan on using these pages as an opportunity to keep friends, family and complete strangers updated on my whereabouts, upcoming performances and other artistic pursuits.

Soprano | Teaching Artist


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