Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. ~~Lawrence Bixby

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Courage To Do What Needs To Be Done

This weekend our choir (Aurora Chorus) performed three amazing concerts. We are 100 women singing peace, light, beauty and harmony.

This choir has become my saving grace. Singing has always been a huge part of my life – it is one of the major ways I define myself: Singer. I can’t imagine a life without singing, without performing, sharing the music, in harmony with one or with 99, and giving it as a gift to others. I’d listened to and admired Aurora for years, but knew I couldn’t commit to the rehearsal schedule and demands of learning the challenging music until I retired (I do NOT know how all you working women with families do it!). So three years ago, within a week of retiring, I was on the roster for the next singing term.

By the time I started with the choir my physical difficulties had begun to appear – walking was getting difficult, I’d started using a cane. I was easily fatigued, and tripping and falling were common occurrences. (Moments before one concert at which I was singing a solo, I tripped and fell backstage and landed hard on my knees.) It became obvious after the first concert that I would have to sit to sing – not a singing position I’m fond of, but concentrating on cues and lyrics and vocals is preferable to concentrating all my energy on staying upright.

The choir is demanding; there’s a lot of music to memorize, some of it very challenging. We have strict weekly rehearsal obligations, plus additional required rehearsals throughout the term. There are days it’s damn hard to get myself to rehearsals, and sometimes the thought of two full days of performing or rehearsing at our weekend retreat feels overwhelming. But I suck it up and I do it -- and I never regret it. The music fills me up, the community of women supports me and we share an incredible bond of the choir’s vision: Powerful women singing peace. We are blessed with a gifted conductor who draws a phenomenal sound out of a non-auditioned choir and who composes exquisite choral pieces.

I still try out for solos and volunteer to play an instrument on songs, and I’m part of a new ensemble that steps out of the choir for a song or two. In concert, this means getting up from my chair – with difficulty - and walking – with help – to a microphone or another chair or a place on stage with the ensemble. It is not inconspicuous. I use my cane, I usually have someone’s arm to lean on and I do my Frankenstein walk downstage. If I stand, I hold on to the back of a chair or someone’s arm. I’m in the spotlight and it is humbling. As I told Laurie this morning, a part of me feels incredibly self-conscious, and another part feels so proud that I have the courage to put myself out there for the thing I love so dearly. And I couldn’t do it without the love and support of my community, in Aurora and at home.

So today, I am completely exhausted, my feet and legs are so so so painful, but I am filled up and smiling inside, remembering all the warmth and joy of singing with my Aurora sisters, the delight of the audience responding to Hine Ma Tov, O Holy Night (Holly Near’s lyrics*) and Gate Gate, and the gales of laughter when, for an encore, we so seriously played our kazoos on Vivaldi’s Gloria. And the euphoria of all that work culminating in three stunning concerts.

Could I live without it? Yes, but for as long as I can muster the courage and stamina to do this, it will continue to be a vital part of my well-being because, in the words of Joan Baez, To sing is to love and affirm, to fly and soar, to coast into the hearts of the people who listen....

Bodhi svaha!

*Holly's lyrics for O Holy Night:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
This is the time a new year is born
Long has lived the world in fear and error pining
But when peace appears, the soul knows its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Rise from your knees, and hear the people’s voices
O night divine, O night let peace be born
O night, O night, O night divine


Betsy said...

Thanks Terri for these written words and your courage to sing and play guitar! I had a great time singing up there with you.
Betsy (A2 Aurora singer)

Anonymous said...

Terri you continue to be a wonderful inspiration. Thank you for your courage and talent. Thank you for expressing the incredible focus and hard work, as well as the euphoria and joy we get to experience. I am so glad you are part of the "us" of Aurora.

Betsy Toll said...

I was so grateful to be able to attend the concert. Thanks to you and to all the women (and probably a few men) whose energy brought together this wonderful celebration in song. I ended up coming alone, but the audience was friendly and community-spirited, so "alone" was not really a factor. The guy behind me commented after each piece with appreciation and enthusiasm, which I found very endearing. All blessings to all who bring their beautiful voices to our world. And a big hug, too.

Julie Earnest said...

Terri, you personify everything that is good about Aurora and the Aurora Community! What a wonderful role model you are! Thank you for writing this.

Julie (S2)

Tiffin said...

I am moved to tears by your words. How the weary world needs your song.

Laura said...

What a lovely post, Terri. Very moving, as Tui said. You're an inspiration my friend!

Nancy said...

You rock, Sister! Persistent, humble, on key, encouraging, amazing, gritty and gracious, willing, humorous,like the Phoenix Rising, still humming around every corner of the house or task at hand, after all these years! Bravo!! And thank you!


Linda Koons said...

The older I get the more I love to listen to choral singing, and the more I wish I had kept my voice tuned up by participating in it...it is such a source of joy for those listening, and those singing. May you always find the strength to raise your voice!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Terri. I am inspired to go beyond my own 'stops' on behalf of being more generous--YOU are inspiring!