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Nov 7, 2008

Just Keep Singing

(For those of you just joining us, a detail of my past is important to this story: Before I was in medicine, I was an opera singer who frequented choirs for money. I know, I'm not proud of it, but I did what I had to do to get by.)

Tonight, I braved the big, bad world without Colin and went to a college choir concert with my girl A. I haven't been to a choir concert in awhile and I was, to be honest, a little worried that I wouldn't enjoy it because I was busy being all critical and expert-y. I'm not proud of that, as I generally hate snobs of any sort, but it's hard to be non-judgmental when that's what I used to DO. Anyway, it wasn't really an issue because the choirs were good enough that my brain formed a few passing opinions without my permission and then I could tell it to shut up and enjoy. And it did.

However, one moment during the night made me wish that I had superpowers and could stop the whole thing. There was a smaller group of singers that performed some "jazzier" pieces, like pop and patriotic war songs. Among this small group, there was one girl who was featured. A graduating senior with a great voice and decent stage presence, she was given a big solo - she sang the whole song while the group sang "ooh" and "doo-wop" behind her. Can you see where this is going? This is like one of those FailBlog videos where the skateboarder is humming along and you know he's going to wipe out but you can't look away. So the girl is singing a popular song from the 1990's, one everyone knows (well, probably not Patrick). She's doing great and everyone's is happy. Here comes the key change - ooh, ouch. She totally, TOTALLY misses it. Now she and the choir are singing in different keys. YIKES.

For my ears, this was catastrophic. I groaned, thinking that it was obvious to everyone, but my friend leaned over and said, "What? Is something bad?" Anyway, the poor girl, the graduating senior given this song as a tribute to her great voice, completely lost it. Like, sobbing. Center stage with a spotlight on her. Holy cow - AWKWARD.

I wanted so much to freeze time, run up to her and tell her about the time I was in college and singing the lead in the opera. I had this well known, really exposed aria and (you can see this one coming too) right at the high note where there was no hiding my voice cracked. CRACKED LIKE A MIDDLE SCHOOL BOY. Oh, the humiliation. Luckily, I kept it together and finished the aria. Then I went backstage and had a meltdown. I remember hyperventilating to my friend that I'd forgotten how to sing. I chose to do this as his cue music was starting. He calmed me down while singing his opening bit from backstage, poor thing. Anyway, I wanted to tell her this story, tell her that life will continue and to take a breath and keep singing.

Unfortunately, I do not possess the ability to stop time, so I could not run up and tell her this story, nor could I give her the time to get herself together. So she continued to melt down onstage in front of everyone as her choir "doo-wop"ed behind her. I felt awful for the girl, but those experiences are a chance for huge growth for a performer. She won't break down next time, the first time is the most traumatic one. On the other hand, ARGH. I am so glad that I don't perform anymore. Who has the nerves to handle experiences like that?

On a brighter note, the choir sang one of my favorite pieces of music of all time as a surprise to a former conductor. It wasn't on the program, so when they started "Lift Thine Eyes", the women's trio from Mendelssohn's Elijah, I got all tingly and happy. That's what music should be about, not me proving to myself that I was once as good or better than those girls.

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