This past last choir concert on Sunday was a particularly painful one for me on all levels, physical, emotional, mental. Now that I’m singing in the first row, I stand on the floor in performance instead of the squeaky risers. I wear very flat thin-soled shoes instead of my typical 2-inch platforms so that the singers behind me can easily see over my head and catch our conductor’s cues. So there’s really not a lot protecting my feet from the hard tile floor. In the past it was mangable to just subtly shift my weight while I sing, but on Sunday that was not good enough. My choir always rehearses before performing in a concert, and during pre-concert rehearsal, I noticed my right foot hurt when I put my weight on it. Plus, I was feeling lightheaded and a little wobbly-woozy, which made perfect sense after I realized that I had not eaten a thing all day and it was 3:30 PM. It had been that kind of a busy-packed day. So in less than 30 minutes, I acquired food, which centered me, and quickly changed into my choir costume.
But my foot was still bothering me, to the point that I seriously considered not singing in the concert. I didn’t have a vital role like a solo, so why not?
But I knew such last-minute changes might unsettle my friends who sing around me, and the pain wasn’t too bad at the time. I decided I would just tough it out. During the first half of the concert, I compensated for the pain in my right foot by shifting most of my weight onto my left foot. It was bearable and I succeeded in staying in the moment most of the time. I started to regret my decision to perform during the second half of the concert, when my left calf cramped up and my left foot started prickling because it had fallen asleep. All low-level endurable pain, uncomfortable but not agonizing, not enough to force me to leave the stage.
But I am a trained musician, and I know that in performance one must go on with the show. So I sang through my pain in my feet. I immersed myself into the music as best I could, and I sang through my tears that always flow whenever I sing Brian Holmes’ “Let Evening Come” which was the last song of our concert. And at the end of the concert (one of our best performances and the audience gave us a standing ovation at the end), I managed to walk off, head held high, without limping too much. I discovered that while I was walking, my feet felt mostly fine. Standing still was what hurt the most. So right after the concert, I alternated between resting my feet and walking around taking photos of and with my choir friends.
Then a lovely lady from the audience approached me. She told me it was her first time listening to my choir. She said that I had a lovely smile and that my facial expressions and my smile matched the music so well. She said that she could tell I truly felt the music when I sang. She said that I needed to keep singing and that she would return to another concert to see me sing.
This unexpected conversation with a complete stranger brought tears to my eyes (and hers as well) and reminded me why I endure the pain, physically and emotionally and mentally, to make music and to make art in general. I create to make a genuine connection, and if one person, My Audience of One, truly “gets” my art, then my job is done.
I’m grateful for this gift of encouragement from a complete stranger. I definitely shall keep singing!!