Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Encore Chorale, or Revenge of the Grown-Ups

Our trip to Washington was designed around Auntie M's performance at Constitution Hall.
I'd never been to the venue; I knew it only because Marian Anderson was not permitted to sing there. TBG had never heard his big sister in a vocal performance. His favorite childhood memories include marveling at her ability to play anything with strings, and play it beautifully, but singing was something new.  When she issued the invitation, the combination was irresistible.

And so Mr. I-Hate-To-Travel was persuaded to get on a plane, causing his daughter to wonder if Dad knows that FlapJilly won't be there when he lands.  Yes, he knew. He knew that his sister asked him to watch her sing, and he wasn't going to let physical discomfort and psychological angst prevent him from attending.  

And so plans were made, friends and relatives were contacted, tickets and reservations were secured. The flying was what flying is these days and we were tourists and gourmands and then it was time to listen.

Encore Chorale started as a research project, The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health and Social Functioning of Older Adults. The gerontologist behind it proved all sorts of wonderful things but it was her husband who convinced us of its worth.  "The singing is so good for her; just look at her!"

And it is true.  Auntie M, with all her health issues, is positively glowing these days.  She has a fancy new rolling walker/chair/carry-all to go with her flowery-if-some-what-dented cane and between them she goes everywhere and sees everything.  And she looks good doing it.

And so did her fellow choristers.

800-some older aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and teachers and coaches and neighbors and friends took the stage, after 150-some more regaled us with The History of Rock and Roll.  We were smiling when they took the stage, we were smiling as they sang, and we were smiling when they finished.  Some of it was familiar, some of it was new, all of it was presented with skill and talent and joy.

The conducting was magnificent.  Elegant and enthusiastic and having just as much fun as those they were prodding and cajoling and quieting and elevating and oh, denizens, our faces were breaking from smiling so hard.  

I looked around at the 30 and 40 somethings taking cell-phone-videos of their singers.  I looked at the school kids, swinging their legs, mildly amused,  well-behaved yet wondering when it would be over. And it dawned on me that this was the grown-up's revenge.  Their children were watching them on stage, just as, once, they had been watched, themselves.  It was a lovely circle, forming there in my head.  

The Headmistress of The Cuter's elementary school was wont to repeat, "Parents will sit on kindergarten size chairs for two hours to watch their child perform as a head of lettuce."  Encore Chorale is much, much more than a vegetable, but the comparison is not that far off.  

It was amateur artistic expression at its finest.  It was those who wanted to do something gathering together to share the joy of doing it together.  The music was intricate and interesting and they sang it with precision and attention to detail and with joy.  There was so much joy.  Our hearts were as happy as our ears. 

I was thinking of those tiny chairs on which TBG and I watched mice and Pilgrims and all manner of adorableness as we left the hall, every bit as happy as when I left a piano recital or Peter Pan thirty years ago.  This performance was more polished and on a far grander scale, but the feelings were the same.... with one difference: I was very thankful that the grown-ups were in charge this time; the chairs were much more comfortable:

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