(Flashback Friday) Heart Connections

I was standing at the counter
I was waiting for the change
When I heard that old familiar music start
It was like a lighted match
Had been tossed into my soul
It was like a dam had broken in my heart

After taking every detour
Getting lost and losing track
So that even if I wanted
I could not find my way back
After driving out the memory
Of the way things might have been
After I’d forgotten all about us
The song remembers when.

Those lyrics are from a Trisha Yearwood song entitled, not surprisingly, “The Song Remembers When”.  And it has everything to do with why music is such a personal, powerful experience for me.

From the time I was young, I remember watching the adults in my life have visceral reactions to songs.  I remember seeing tears in my mother’s eyes when the song “Because He Lives” was playing on the record spinning at the time.  (At the time, I didn’t understand.  Now that song evokes the same response in me.)  I sat in the sanctuary of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, on Easter morning and watched as tears started falling down the faces of nearly every member of the choir.  I was probably 6 years old or so at the time.  Years later, my parents would explain that it had been a rough path getting to the performance and it seemed like everything that could go wrong, was going wrong.  All the frustration led to shortened tempers and some tense conversations.  At the perfect moment in the cantata they were performing, the sun hit the rose window in the balcony and bathed the choir in colored light.  The purpose of the day, the reason we were celebrating became the only thing that mattered and the responses of the choir members could be seen on their wet cheeks.

In my own life, there have been songs that have caused my eyes to fill with tears almost from the first note.  There are songs that leave me invigorated and feeling like I could conquer the world.  There are songs that hit me between the eyes with a truth I hadn’t considered before.  And more times than I can count, I’ve heard lyrics that made me think, “Yes!  That’s it!  I haven’t known how to say it but those are exactly the words I’ve been looking for!”

Sometimes the songs I’m talking about are connected to matters of faith.  Sometimes they are not.  But one thing holds true – songs stick in my brain because I have an emotional connection to them.  Or maybe I have a connection to the first time I really heard the song.  Whatever the original circumstance, those songs are always there.  I can go without hearing a certain meaningful song for years and when I hear it again, I’ll be able to sing every word without a mistake.  More importantly, I’m instantly transported back to that moment in time when the song first imprinted itself on my heart.

Trisha was right.  The song DOES remember when.

Closing Night

“Bugsy Malone Jr.” closed a couple of nights ago.  This was the 6th summer that found me spending a chunk of my time working with young people in the world of musical theater.  Performance week is exhausting, to put it bluntly.  After getting all the lines, lyrics, and choreography down we add in set pieces, props, lights, mics and sound cues, AND we moved into a performance space that was completely different from our rehearsal space which always means some adjustments as we adjust to a bigger performance area.

As I entered the space to get ready for the closing night performance, I braced myself.  In the midst of mic checks, greeting the guests, making sure my keyboard was ready for me to play and all of the other “stuff” that goes into making the curtain go up, I was very aware that there was a statement coming that always come at the end of the show.  And sure enough, within minutes of the show ending and the cast entering the lobby to mingle with their guests, a parent approached and uttered the words I hear at the end of every show.

“I bet you’re glad this is over.”

I get it.  To someone on the outside, they think of all the things about doing a show that are not necessarily convenient –

  • 2 hours of rehearsal on three nights of each week – that’s time that could be spent doing other things.
  • 29 teenagers to keep on task and focused – challenging even if you love the age group.
  • Performance week usually means that the director sees more of the cast and crew than his or her own family.
  • The lengthy “to do” list can sometimes wake the director up in the middle of the night.
  • The varying degrees of experience and skill mean that dance numbers must be repeated again, and again, and again to make sure that everyone is able to do the steps.
  • Mics, lights, props, set – there are so many things that could go wrong and just the possibility keeps the director’s adrenaline pumping throughout tech and performance weeks.

All of that is absolutely true.  But there is another side to the whole experience that keeps me coming back again, and again, and again –

  • If you’re really lucky, and I was this year, the cast becomes good friends and enjoys being around one another.  Granted, my cast this year got super chatty as a result of their friendship so my biggest “discipline” problem was getting them to be quiet when they were offstage.
  • There were singers who struggled to believe in themselves and it was a joy to watch their confidence grow as the summer went on.
  • I get to see the progression from the first rehearsal through the beginning of blocking and choreography to opening night when everything is in place and they are ready to shine.
  • I watch young performers breathe life into their characters and grow as actors.
  • The performers learn about the technical side of theater and become more knowledgeable about how mic checks work, how scene changes function, and the finer points of performance nights.  This makes them better overall performers down the road.

Yes, I’m exhausted.  For me, the Spring usually means back to back shows so I’m pretty worn out by the time the summer program ends.  But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I’ve watched a certain young man go from an audition where he said, “I’ll sing anything you want me to sing, but please don’t make me say any lines” to more recent shows where he’s had significant roles.

I’ve watched singers blossom, gaining confidence in their own abilities and finding the courage to keep pushing themselves.

Actors who courageously take on roles that are nothing like their own personalities, cast members who start out as strangers and become friends, young men and women who tell me “I can’t really dance” that go on to learn choreography that they thought was beyond them.

Closing night was Saturday.  As I type this, it is mid-morning on Monday.  I have relaxed, caught up on some reading, took a walk  with my husband, and rode along in the golf cart as he played a round of golf.  But I suspect that at some point tomorrow night I’ll look at the time and think, “This was rehearsal time for the last 8 weeks.  I miss my kids.”  Yes, the down time is nice.  But working with young people in the world of musical theater carries rewards with it that make every single minute of the work worth it.

Can’t wait to do it again.