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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

How can I keep from singing?

Our choir (Aurora Chorus) sang two concerts last week, titled Grace Before Sleep. We’ve been preparing for this since September with weekly rehearsals, extra section rehearsals, a weekend retreat, endless memorizing and learning foreign language diction (Norwegian, Hebrew, Swahili, Spanish). It is a huge commitment, this choir gig – a commitment of time, energy, love. I know what I’ve signed up for; I know it’s challenging and exhausting; I know it’s a test of my mettle.

That's me, center stage, singing Mata del Anima Sola. 
I've written about the courage I need to muster to participate in these concerts. This one was no different. Singing a solo and accompanying a song on guitar in both shows required me to make my way to the front of the stage and back (with assistance) four times. I feel very conspicuous during this transition time, cane in one hand, gripping a sister singer with the other, trudging slowly and clumsily. So it did not help that I miscalculated and went upstage one song too early! When I realized what I'd done, it didn't make sense to struggle back to my seat and then move up again, so I sat there center stage through one whole song! Awkward!

And in spite of all the difficulty, I sang and played well, the audience seemed to like it, and it felt good to be able to do, once again, the thing I love so dearly. I am supported so completely by the other choir members, not just during my solo, but all term, whether it's negotiating the stairs in our rehearsal room or schlepping my guitar, there is always a hand or two at the ready to help.

It was not an easy day, though. The venue we've been using is wonderful for acoustics and aesthetics, but it sucks for accessibility - especially, like on this day, when one or both of the elevators are out of service and I have no choice but to use the stairs (with help, of course).

I've had to make a hard decision to not sing in this venue any more, after our March concert. It will break my heart to not participate, but it adds too much stress and physical strain to deal with flights of stairs in addition to the demands of stage movements and, well, just getting there! It's also not very good will for our audience members -- had I been attending this concert and been forced to use the stairs, I don't think I would have stayed. I have been in dialog with the chorus coordinators, and they get it and are taking steps to improve the situation. It has taken longer than it should have, however -- this is an issue that has come up over and over in this venue.

And it was a battle I did not want to take on for Grace Before Sleep. 

Photos by Kathryn Kendall.


dohlink said...

As always, thank you. I hope the venue is changed by next concert. Until people "are there", they cannot appreciate the impact this has on people with these challenges. How much we take for granted when we are young and mobile. But, then, again, there are many many others who face these circumstances their entire lives. I so appreciate the descriptions that you share to bring this to awareness of more people. We are one human family. This is just another way that we need to act like it, caring for each other, being in touch with the struggles that people face and how we can make things better.

Julie Earnest said...

Thank you, Terri - and I couldn't agree more......I was disappointed that my guests could not come down to chat after the concert because one of them had been completely undone by having to use the stairs to get to the concert. Completely unacceptable. Thank you for writing this! And for your gifts of talent and time and energy to the chorus....XXOO

Nancy said...

Sharp and gentle, that last sentence. A very sweet sentiment that speaks to the nourishing experience you have with the chorus.

Is there any common language, signal, red flag we could begin to use when the hurdles appear? A strike in places where we are stuck. (How about Code WTF) Lots of people who want reliable accessibility would buy tickets to a given event or just show up at a restaurant or public event. Those not willing or able to climb the hurdles just stay there on strike. We need to invent/visualize a simple visible universal response to barriers. It could become a tipping point.

Love you.

Tina said...

Well said Terry. I think that we have to have a new venue. It is not fair to our sister singers or would be audience members to have them have to choose between not participating or try and navigate a venue that is not set up properly for people who need a way to get up and down once inside. Brava for speaking up on this issue. You are not alone here and we will unite on getting this issue taken care of. Honestly besides the acoustics (it's too small and the toe rails are dangerous).

On another note, your solo was fantastic and mesmerizing. I have to say that I didn't even know you went down too early so it in no way detracted from our singing.

Mary Ellen said...

Hi Terri,

I'm inspired by your courage, talent and determination to keep doing what you love and do it with Aurora Chorus. You are such a big part of Aurora and now Tapestry. Your spirit is so powerful and comes through your voice. You have managed to put your self consciousness aside and sing with beauty, grace and yes, humility. There must be a more age and access friendly venue with good acoustics somewhere in Portland where Aurora can sing. I'll keep my ears open.
Happy Solstice ,Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Mary Ellen

ducnoir said...

I totally agree with you Terri. Although folks were able to take the elevator to get to the main floor for the concert, there was no way to access the downstairs room to socialize after the concert. I am hopeful that First Congregational will find the funds to retrofit their building.
-Meredith Peake