Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sometimes I Stand on My Toes When I Sing

Having ditched my childhood church at the age of 15, I am not what you'd call a deeply religious person. I do, however, find it fascinating that people have spiritual experiences so intense that they faint or speak in tongues.

The closest I've ever come to that feeling was during an exchange program that my wildly liberal church did with the Bethel AME Church in Bloomfield. One Sunday, the Bethel folks sang at our place, and a few weeks later we sang at their church. When our choir stood to sing Randall Thompson's amazing "Alleluia," the Bethel singers were seated alongside us. A combination of the moving music -- which rises to an intense climax and then settles down to almost nothing -- and the energy given off by the highly spiritual and encouraging singers surrounding us created such a powerful feeling in me that I found myself standing on my toes.

I'm part of a group performing that special piece -- along with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus" -- as a benefit to rebuild a performing arts center in Haiti. The concert takes place tomorrow: Sunday, June 6 at 5 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford.

We held our first rehearsal last night, and not only did I find myself standing on my toes, I did the thing real performers aren't supposed to do: Cry while singing. The words to an arrangement of Dvorak's Goin' Home caught me off guard and gave me such a clear visual of the people of Haiti, whose lives are forever altered: Lots of folk gathered there, all the friends I knew ... I'm a goin' home.