Thursday, May 7

Saying Singing Feeling What I Mean

You might not know that I sing in a chorus. I don't talk about it much here. At the moment, I am neck deep (I was going to say knee-deep, but then I gave myself a healthy slap in the face, a la "Snap out of it!" in Moonstruck) in concert prep, with all that that means, which I'm not going to go into because it's more than enough to be doing it, I don't want to be spending my time writing about it on top of it all. Just take my word for it. I'm swamped. Which probably explains why tonight I am channeling past seasons. You know, because they're [shhh...whispering now]...OVER.

But there is one thing I want to say (you knew it). I want to say that being a second alto (you too, can be promoted to a lower register simply by watching the seasons go by...amazing thing, time) has its benefits and its pitfalls. It's an interesting life, being the percussion section, singing a lot of oohs, ahhs, dum-dums, get the idea. This season, we actually have less of that than usual, which is kind of a treat. "Words!", the six of us say, with wide-eyed wonder. Whoa! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Getting to sing the introductory "doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo bum" of "Goodnight Sweetheart" is a blast, no doubt about it.

What I am saying is that as a person who is so keyed into lyrics, for whom lyrics are the everything in the music that I love, as someone who knows every word to every song that has been a part of my life back to and including San Francisco Children's Opera, circa 1968 ("let's hurry, hurry, hurry, let's hurry to be merry. We go to the ball! We go to the ball! It's the greatest event! It's the greatest event of winter, summer, spring, and fall, to the ball, to the ball, to the ball, to the ball!") as someone who has inherited her mother's gift (?) and propensity for "give me a word, I'll give you a song" and who has fully incorporated her repertoire of 30's and 40's tunes, not knowing the words to songs we have performed is oddly unsettling.

Like tonight. I was sitting here, thinking on what I wrote yesterday. About the shifts in my life, about returning to the familiar at exactly the same time as I am venturing into places I have never been before. About the moments in every day when I think "what am I doing, I have nothing particularly special to offer!" and the moments when I think I've undersold myself for a long time. And a song from my first season with Voices Rising came to me, loud and clear. But here's the thing. It was the melody that came to me, because, well, that's the part that makes sense. And I realized in short order that I don't know the words. I remember the "Oh, oh-o oh, oh-o oh" perfectly. But those people over there on the other side--you know, the ones with the high voices--what were they singing?

They were singing some portions of this, a poem by Laura Hershey, a lesbian and disability rights activist. I'm thinkin' that it's part two of my running away to join the circus. Take a gander.

You Get Proud By Practicing

If you are not proud
For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;
If every time you stop
To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing
With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself.
You can get proud.

You do not need
A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.
To be proud.
You do not need
A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car.
You do not need
To be able to walk, or see, or hear,
Or use big, complicated words,
Or do any of those things that you just can’t do
To be proud. A caseworker
Cannot make you proud,
Or a doctor.
You only need more practice.
You get proud by practicing.

There are many many ways to get proud.
You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg,
Or playing guitar,
And do well or not so well,
And be glad you tried
Either way.
You can show
Something you’ve made
To someone you respect
And be happy with it no matter
What they say.
You can say
What you think, though you know
Other people do not think the same way, and you can
keep saying it, even if they tell you
You are crazy.

You can add your voice
All night to the voices
Of a hundred and fifty others
In a circle
Around a jailhouse
Where your brothers and sisters are being held
For blocking buses with no lifts,
Or you can be one of the ones
Inside the jailhouse,
Knowing of the circle outside.
You can speak your love
To a friend
Without fear.
You can find someone who will listen to you
Without judging you or doubting you or being
Afraid of you
And let you hear yourself perhaps
For the very first time.
These are all ways
Of getting proud.
None of them
Are easy, but all of them
Are possible. You can do all of these things,
Or just one of them again and again.
You get proud
By practicing.

Power makes you proud, and power
Comes in many fine forms
Supple and rich as butterfly wings.
It is music
when you practice opening your mouth
And liking what you hear
Because it is the sound of your own
True voice.

It is sunlight
When you practice seeing
Strength and beauty in everyone,
Including yourself.
It is dance
when you practice knowing
That what you do
And the way you do it
Is the right way for you
And cannot be called wrong.
All these hold
More power than weapons or money
Or lies.
All these practices bring power, and power
Makes you proud.
You get proud
By practicing.

Remember, you weren’t the one
Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Just practice,
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
By practicing.

No comments: