I had a rather tumultuous week, the details of which I will keep to myself for now, but I realized that, as someone who had spent much of the last year fixated, trying to put the star-shaped peg into the round hole, well, perhaps my eyes and my ears and my spirit have not been quite open enough, and I may have missed a few things. Everything that I was going through made me think a lot about an exercise that we did at the John Bell seminar, where we had to fill in circles on a picture of a human head, each circle representing a different part of our personalities, our likes, our dislikes, our talents. Rev. Bell keeps just such a picture handy at all times, to remind himself that all of those facets of who he is must be paid attention to, must be fed and nurtured — otherwise, he is not in balance and he is not at his best in his calling.
I had a good reminder that, I am out of balance. Certainly, as I learned the other night, I just don’t get out enough…and I need to fix that. Immediately.
As a musician, with many friends who are also musicians, I am often (and more so at a time of year such as this one) totally overwhelmed when I try to figure out how to attend the events of even a small portion of those friends. And, in the music world, that is what good friends do — we go to support and enjoy the work of our friends and colleagues. I haven’t been very good about that lately, what with my star-shaped peg obsession and all.
But Tuesday night, I took a new colleague up on an invitation to attend one event in the cycle of the UrbanArias festival, going on right now in Arlington, VA, at Artisphere. I, frankly, am rarely this trendy, but I took the invitation and wandered out of my comfort zone. And I am so glad that I did.
You see, I think I had a chance to witness the future of concert/classical/theatrical music (I have to use so many slashes because, well, I think there isn’t a good name for what I experienced). The UrbanArias festival, and the company itself, presents only works under 90 minutes in length, focusing on works by new and most likely living contemporary composers. On Tuesday, I had a chance to experience Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Eurdice, a “chamber” work, if I can call it that, for soprano, clarinet, and piano. On paper, it looks like a traditional song cycle. In the room, it was a dance between Orpheus (portrayed by Todd Palmer on the clarinet) and Eurydice (Elizabeth Futral), as the story of the that touching myth unfolded in a much more modern idiom.
That night, I was not being a good “concert goer” (instead, I was engrossed by the music and the event, and focusing on the performance, thank you very much), so I cannot tell you exactly which movement in which this occurred, but when Ms. Futral began the quiet and slow singing of “I am a part of something now”, well, at that moment, my heart simply stopped. I have rarely experienced a more riveting moment in concert or theatre.
But what most grabbed me after my UrbanArias experience is that, as I looked around the room, I realized that it seems to me that Artistic Director Robert Woods and his organization, and the few other organizations that I know of like it, may very well be the saviors of this art form that so many of us love. The event itself was simple, small-in-scale, meaningful, and of a length and accessibility that meant that even the busiest person could and probably would make time to participate. After all, it was shorter than a movie and considerably more meaningful. And while that evening we had the opportunity to enjoy the work of world class artists such as Ms. Futral, Mr. Palmer, and Mr. Chen, it really was a liveable canvas that could be used by artists at all levels of experience. The event breathed live into an art form that has been for me, of late, on its last legs and dying fast.
I am no critic; I am a performer — I am therefore no person to comment on the artistic quality etc. and so forth of the evening. But it did for me what it should do for any audience member: it inspired me; it opened my mind to possibility; it took me outside my obsession and offered me the possibility that something else is out there — that maybe, just maybe, there is new art to be made.
And, so, as I said, I need to get out more. Now, if I can just figure out how to get to the performance of Gordon’s Green Sneakers on Sunday or maybe that and Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied on Saturday night…