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we are so many people

I went to a concert tonight. It was an unusual event. A singer in the chorale is heading north, Sacramento I think, to pursue a three-year degree in music therapy. Not so unusual except that she's about my age, has a husband and had three children. One of her children, the brilliant and incredibly talented James, died suddenly 2-1/2 years ago at his apartment in San Francisco. The autopsy did not reveal what caused his death.

Victoria, his mom, calls herself "mom" in general, because she thinks of herself as the mom of her three sons, and because she's a music teacher so I imagine some of her students think of her as mom too. Some of her current students were in this recital tonight.

Victoria put on this recital, inviting friends and students to join her in this way of saying goodbye for three years, to her friends.

So there were several people involved, from about seven years to at least seventy,singing solos, duets, other combinations, and her two sons played two violin duets as well. The performances were uneven, to put it mildly, and near the beginning I was trying to figure that out. I imagine that the performers didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare. I don't know.

But there were standouts. Barry, the oldest man, at least 70, sang two pieces, including "Old Man River", just wonderfully. I am sure he has chalked up many years on the stage and he sure hasn't lost it. His counterpart was a woman named Carollyn, approximately the same age, who sounded like she might have been singing in a club just that afternoon.

How often do we hear elderly folks singing solos? And when we do, how often do we actually love it? These were not nursing home performances. It made me a bit sad to think that there is this wonderful talent out there, that you could pass some ordinary looking old man and not know what is hidden inside him, that there is a huge song just waiting to burst out.

I sometimes get so upset with this world. I see how our government gets us into war, how companies cheat their workers, how there are so many people living in desperation and they are invisible. It upsets me and I get angry and depressed, feel tight inside.

Then there are nights like tonight. These otherwise ordinary people stepping out there to share their gifts with their friends, and some of those gifts are not ordinary.

Victoria herself seemed at the top of her form. I remember when she was a soloist with the Handel choir several years ago and kept getting the cues wrong. The director, not a nice guy, later told me she couldn't read music right.

Oh, she can read music all right. And make music. Her pieces dug right into my heart, every one of them. I have sometimes thought of her as more than willing to fake it when she didn't know it, and I dislike her radio show on public radio because it seems like she's pretending to greater knowledge than she has. But all that, forget it.

After the performance she talked to us about her "journey". She's very religious, and she knows the power of love and music. She told us of her volunteer work at Hospice, the loss of James, the love of her life, her husband Jim, who cheerfully MCd the event. She said she knew that everyone there in the audience tonight was there "because they love me," she said in a whisper. That may seem corny and stagey but it wasn't. She urged us to take time for our friends. And ended by singing "Granada", which she'd first heard in Mexico City when she was ten.

On my way home I listened to Bruch's violin concerto, the driving heartbeat rhythm, the gradual buildup, the realization - the climax, climax again, and again. I thought about the violinist, the members of the orchestra. Everyone who makes music, makes music like this. Nobody does this for the money. Nobody does it for the fame. There is only one reason anyone plays or sings in such a way as to break your heart, and that is because they feel.

So my maudlin entry ends with the thought that a world with music in it makes up for a lot.

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