Earth, Wind, and Fire

September 2019

Courtesy of Spotify, in my mom car on the way to the D:

“Do you remember the 21st night of september?
love was changing the mind of pretenders
while chasing the clouds away
Our hearts were ringing
in the key that our souls were singing.
as we danced in the night,
remember – how the stars stole the night away, ”

The previous evening, in Columbus:

We ran all of Gianni Schicchi, which we’d staged in five days. “You know,” said my colleague, “the reason we can bear this schedule is because the cast knows each other so well,” And it was true. They’re all excellent – they’d do their parts proud anywhere – but the ensemble we’ve achieved is at least as much due to their knowledge of each other as to their individual expertise.

This afternoon, in the D:

I dig into songs with three dear colleagues. We wrap our musicianship around notes and poetry that mean so much to us, and we talk about the coming recital which will include poetry readings and art exhibited in a historic Detroit building. We talk about why we are doing this in a time of industry upheaval, not just the usual economic tension but the long, sad reveal of what we’ve all endured in our business, the flagrant abuse of course but also the quiet lowering of the eyes, the looking away, the swallowing of pride or doubt in the service of communing with a scary/compelling person, the great and moving and impressive gifts that came along with all of that. The desire to stay in the room, to have a chance. The doubt and shame in the aftermath. Why we now teach, what we want to say and why. Why we are singing.

After the long drive from the D to the ‘Nati:

I sit at a recital of all the Duparc songs, gorgeously sung, serenely played. Relationships between performers and audience were grown in the city, over time. The performers live in different places now, but they return to old connections and we hear that history, that knowledge. My dear colleague plays the first arpeggio of Chanson triste and I feel my heart relax deep inside my chest. “Moonlight slumbers in your heart, a gentle summer moonlight, and to escape the cares of life I shall drown myself in your light.”

A few months ago, during a summer festival:

“You have to admit,” said my colleague to me, “our old abusive teachers made us excellent.”


I sit tonight surrounded by music and connection, pondering the long myth we’ve handed down across centuries about how rigor and danger are bound together.

The ladder, the boot in the face, the loyalty test – those things are lies.

I’m pondering how to tell the story of how rigor and excellence and work are worth it, and how none of it is done alone. About how we support and change and make each other. About the solemn responsibility and the deep joy.

Making music locally is so important, but so is communion and connection with the big community of the musical world. Are there new ways for us to know each other and to share our knowledge?

Let’s get to it. Let love change the minds of pretenders.

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