by Hannah the Zebra
I phoned my younger daughter five years ago and asked her, “Do you ever think something is so beautiful that the thought goes through your head, ‘If I were to die right now in the midst of such beauty, it would be ok.’?”
I had passed the audition for choir and was heady with the music we were singing. The two major pieces we were rehearsing were Vivaldi’s Gloria and one of Mozart’s masses. They were both pieces I knew, but had thought I would never have the opportunity to perform. It was like I was dancing inside all the time, I was so excited. When I sang, especially those pieces, my voice blending with all the others, I felt as though the beauty was palpable. I didn’t know if anyone else ever felt that way.
My daughter thought for a long minute. Then, “I wouldn’t use those words, but yes. When I am working in the lab, what I am always looking for is truth. And when I get good data, that’s what I have found: truth. And that is the most incredible feeling on earth.”
It is hard to describe the part singing plays in my life. It grounds me. It heals me. It helps me process grief, and give me deep joy. I feel whole when I sing. One of my favorite days of the year is our fall Saturday rehearsal/retreat where we rehearse from 8am – 3:30pm. (With breaks of course.) This last fall, my energy only allowed me to stay 2 hours, with part of that time lying down. Even so, when I got home, my husband said, “I love it when you go the fall rehearsal!” I asked him why, and his response was, “You are always so happy when you come home.”
This year in choir has been a struggle. In the fall, I could only stay at rehearsal for 30 minutes. I slowly built up my rehearsal time to 2 hours. But it is the one thing I have refused to give up. I have frequently said over the years that if I couldn’t sing, I think I would die. Part of my concept of heaven is that I will be able to sing as much as I want and have the technique to sing anything I want, (The role of Suzanna in Rosini’s opera The Barber of Seville comes to mind,) and that God will teach me how to play the cello. But I’d prefer for that not to happen just yet. I am content to feel like I’m in heaven when I’m learning and singing difficult and beautiful music.