Updated: Sep 27
Yesterday, in Christchurch, I had the absolute pleasure of going to 3 concerts. The first was a lunchtime concert presented by some of my vocal students. For 2 senior students it was their presentation for a coveted scholarship, and for the other 6, it was an opportunity to present something to showcase their work from the year. Later, I went to a senior string students' recital, followed by Carmina Burana in the evening with full orchestra, choir and soloists in a packed-out venue. Many of my students were on the stage for this, and for several it was their first taste of being part of something so vast and thrilling.
It was unusual (and wonderful!) for me to be an observer at these 3 events. So often, I'm involved in the performance, but watching from the sidelines afforded me a new perspective viewed through a different lens. The 3 events had much in common - pre-performance nerves and last-minute adjustments, incredible displays of skill, musicianship, confidence and teamwork and the inevitable few wobbles and deep disappointment when something didn't go quite as planned and practiced.
But the thing that really struck me from my seat "on the bench" was the all-encompassing euphoria. I've always felt strongly that music unites people because our primitive human response is so unfiltered.
I saw with new eyes that live performance allows us a moment in time to be "real" with our emotional responses. The joy experienced in making music is infectious, and when it spreads to an audience and ignites them, it becomes euphoria. One of the violinists finished his recital with a fiery cadenza, eliciting a gasp from a lady in the audience who was totally unrelated to the player.
Carmina Burana starts with an almighty bang, and it's hard not to be instantly transported. Last night was no exception. About a 3rd of the way in and towards the end of a movement, the house lights inexplicably went up, and a siren wailed twice. A few people looked round for guidance from the ushers, but, collectively, it seemed that the audience held its breath. One entity. One giant being willing the music to continue. And continue it did. Having willed it back into being, the euphoria grew.
The people of Christchurch are only too-used to responding to potential emergency situations. Last night, it felt like we'd all have willingly met our fate as long as there was music pounding in our ears and our hearts. Today, reflecting on all of this, I feel very much alive and grateful that the vocation that chose me demonstrates such transformative power.
"If music be the food of love, sing on til I am filled with joy". Henry Heveningham.