at the very end of a concert, out on the apron of the wooden stage, as close up and personal as can be from a proscenium, head tucked down and adrenaline coursing through your body, the final bow is sheer gratitude. it is a humble thank-you. it is an exhilarating release. it is a moment when time dissipates into slow-motion and suddenly you realize that it is over. it is full of you-are-exactly-where-you-are-supposed-to-be. it never ceases to amaze me. and then, it is the moment to tuck back behind the curtain, head to the green room, breathe a prayer of thanks, and start the running review in your mind’s eye.
it matters not the size of the audience. a few people in folding chairs, a park filled with thirty-thousand, a few hundred seated in upholstered comfort. you bring the same program, the same dedication, the same commitment to your art, no matter how many people are there. the give and take of audience energy makes a difference, yes, but any performing artist can tell you that delivering the work is the same, regardless. one must actually work harder with a smaller audience.
you can feel it. the minutes your delivery resonates. you can feel it. the minutes you know you need to rapidly move on, change the course. you can feel it. in the perfect pause between lines of a story you tell, laughter waiting in the wings. you can feel it. the heart of a story falling into the hearts of those gathered to watch. it is a dialogue without dialogue and your bow at the end of the concert acknowledges their participation in it.
i would say that the things i miss most about the-job-i-no-longer-have are those moments of resonance, the moments that don’t find a place in a job description, the moments that cannot be measured. they are the moments birthed through expansive experience, through study, through empathy, through intuition, through gifts given to you that have no names, no deservedness; instead, just the compelling imperative to be used.
the times in the choir room when, in the middle of starting to rehearse a piece of music, a story surfaces and i must tell it. that laughter opens everyone; the piece of music has four-part heart. the times when i direct others performing together, joy on their faces, their breathing different because of that which they have created together, that which we have rehearsed together, the spirit which we have sown in the music. the times in the chancel, in the middle of a particularly poignant song, standing at the piano and singing into the boom mic, glancing at jim playing guitar and singing harmony and telling him with my eyes to make another go-round, looking out into the gathering, eye contact, and seeing the song fall upon them, touch them, engage them, speak to them, tug at them. those are moments when music connects faith-dots, moments of doing the work, moments of shaping a journey, moments in which i bow internally to that which guides me.
there have been many: many prosceniums, many aprons, many black boxes, many chancels, many flatbeds, the floors of wholesale, retail, television studios, the creaking floor under my piano, the patio out back. they each bid to the imperative. they each elicit my gratitude.
the stage echoes under my boots. as i walk to the center, take the bench at the piano, place my hands on the keys and my face up close to the mic, it is always with great anticipation. it is the culmination of planning, designing, writing, practicing, rehearsing. it is lighting and sound and balance. it is storytelling through song with lyrics, through song without lyrics, through song without music or lyrics, through narrative and through rests. it is the forerunner of a deep bow i will hold onto until the next time.
** this stunning sculpture’s home is next to my piano in my studio