Today marks the third day in my husband, Russ’, journey through radiation to health. It also marks the first days of social isolation due to the COVID-19 virus. We live in crazy times.
Over the last few months as we navigated the territory between diagnosis to treatment, it felt different, but not surreal. With the onset of the virus and the changes it brings to daily life, it now feels surreal. It is very much like the days after 911 when the whole world shifted and everything I thought I knew, well, I didn’t.
I am quite sure that I am not saying anything that others have not thought, but today an email arrived in my box and it brought the tears that have been pent up for all these months.
Singing in the Collegiate Peaks Chorale has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in many years. Besides challenging me to remember how to read music and blend my voice with others, I have made new friends and learned new music. Brandon Chism, a gifted musician, leads us. He has challenged us, made us laugh, and taught us more in his short tenure than any other choir director for whom I’ve had the pleasure of singing. I look forward to Monday nights with the Chorale and recently, with all the stress that comes with a cancer diagnosis, it has been a refuge. For 2 hours I could not think about anything but the music in front of me and the task of getting it right – for my fellow altos and for the Chorale as a whole.
As things worsened with the virus, I knew that the Spring concert would (and should) be postponed. Starting today, we made provisions to continue rehearsing virtually – via YouTube, just in case the virus settled down enough to present the concert at a later date. I was ready. Then the email came canceling the concert. That wasn’t what brought me to tears. It was something that Brandon wrote as he ended the email.
“I have decided to continue with our planned “virtual rehearsal” for a number of reasons. Rather than dig into the music functionally, I will lead us in simply singing through most of the repertoire from the beginning of the program to the end. Our purpose in rehearsing serves many needs and desires other than aiming toward a performance, doesn’t it? Our joy in singing together and also the meaning and healing it can bring each of us in our lives. So, use tonight’s opportunity to enjoy this repertoire one more time, and let’s lift our voices together from our homes!”
The repertoire is all written by American composers: Folk songs, Spirituals, Gregorian Chants (yep, written by an American), and well-known songs from films. They were written by people – just like us – who have lived through the good and the bad that makes up this democracy. They used music to express their joy, sadness, humor, love, and longing. So tonight, through the tears, we will sit alone in our social isolation and “lift our voices” to the messy, beautiful place we call America.
Thank you, Brandon, for leading us, and thank you fellow Chorale members, for joining your voices with mine.