Monday, March 14, 2011
It's funny now. Not hilarious, but funny--in a reflective sort of way. It was soooo NOT funny yesterday in ANY sort of way. When I got back to my seat in the dark, in my mind, I was screaming, "NOOOOOOO! Rewind! Disappear!" Someone touched my shoulders. It was part pity, part comfort. It's something when you can embarrass yourself and others feel it, too. The next thing my mind played was me logged on to youtube reading one brutal comment after another. I was almost afraid to look at twitter or facebook. Surely there would be a torrent of jokes and cracks about one unfortunate moment in time. I just knew to expect "OMG!"; "WTH?"; "LOLOLOL" messages, most of which included the words, "She sounded a hot mess". I had to stop thinking. I was driving myself nuts. I had to tell myself it was okay, or spend the rest of the evening in tears.
To my suprise, when I logged on to my computer, there was very little negativity coming my way. I hadn't been raked over the coals. Maybe the runaway note sent everyone into a trance! Yes! Maybe everyone just felt badly for me. Just when I was about to commence beating myself up about it, something said, "What can you do about it now? It's over. Go to bed."
It also occurred to me that the mercy one receives is a direct result of the mercy one shows.
When you mess up, you mess up. No excuses. There very well may be extenuating circumstances, but you still have one for the "Mess Up" file. It doesn't have to be deemed the end of the world--or the end of whatever it is that you were trying to do, though.
I wonder how many audiences know that from time to time, they're listening to someone who has the hiccups, or is trying to stifle a burp or a yawn, or who doesn't feel well, or whose feet hurt, or has just suffered a loss, or whose mind is somewhere else altogether.
I should know myself by now. I can't hang anymore. If I know what's good for me I will reinstate my childhood bedtime. I need rest, and lots of it. Late hours are not my friend, and neither is cold night air, or cold, early morning dew. Trying to sleep on a bus, no matter how plush the seats are, isn't friendly to the body either. This past weekend was busy, but I knew Saturday and Sunday were coming. Did I prepare properly? What could I have done better? I should have worn a hat on the trip to New York--and not talked...or laughed...I should have taken a blanket...and gloves...and socks...and a scarf, and had more hot tea...and Vitamin C...and B12...and Ricola...and gotten all of my crying out. I definitely should have gotten ALL of my crying out. When Mr. Yoba took my hands and asked, "Are you ready?" I should have said "No Sir. Give me about 24 hours. Better yet, YOU sing. I think the ladies, (and even some of the fellas) would like that very much."
AFTER the fact is such a wise, reflective time, isn't it?
Yeah. I'm laughing now. It WAS embarrassing. It WAS a mess. Maybe there wasn't anything I could have done differently. Maybe it was just my turn--and it came.
You know that moment of silence when the only thing to be heard is what comes out of YOUR mouth? Yeah. THAT one. Music stops, choir stops, and you get one shot to nail one note before everyone joins back in. You're singing, but you're thinking. It's a spiritual thing, but you're not unconscious. You know how you feel. There's a lump the size of a watermelon rising in your throat. Everybody's waiting. You wonder if you can make it. You have choices. Play it straight or fancy. Go high, or go low. Riff, run, do vocal acrobatics or be smart and pass the mike to someone younger who didn't get off of a bus at 4:30 in the morning. You open your mouth and what proceeds is supposed to be perfect, harmonious and bright. It's supposed to bring smiles. Last night, however, out came a note that WOULD have been perfect--had I been singing ANOTHER song...in another key...at Chuck E. Cheese...for a bunch of little kids hopped up on sugary cake frosting and punch. I heard it and it shocked me, too. It was painful. Like watching a car wreck.
"Ooh...Ouch...Wow...I sure hope no one was hurt."
I'm sure the note I sang is somewhere on the scale. A FISH scale perhaps.
There are times when you wish Superman would show up and spin the earth backward. You wish Jeanie would fold her arms, nod her head and stop everyone in their tracks so they don't remember anything that just happened. In your mind people are gasping and running for the exits. The ones who stay are screaming "You suck!" Anyone who tells you, "It wasn't THAT bad" is just trying to be nice. Any applause is thanks and gratitude for providing the source of the day's biggest laugh.
No matter how satisfactorily you do a thing, one slip in the mix has the potential to mess up the whole shebang, and be the thing that people remember--and talk about most. When the talking starts, thick skin and an ability to laugh at yourself better be an existing part of your DNA, or you're going to spend time hanging your head, hiding your face, and wishing there was a trap door you could fall through. I got the laughing part. The thick skin seems to still elude me.
I'd sat in the wings listening, and singing along, and clapping, and getting all misty, and realizing just how ironic my presence at the event really was. I'd skipped the reception because I didn't want to get all choked up. Cancer has visited my family way too many times. Some have fought and lived. Some have fought, died (and gained). I may as well have gone to the reception since choked up is PRECISELY what I got. I made it all the way through the medley and then disaster struck. The note I'd sung so many times before was SO far removed from what actually came out of my mouth it was pitiful. My brain was sending a signal for an actual HUMAN note that could be found on a musical scale in the Milky Way Galaxy. My throat and vocal cords had each other in a head lock, so I do believe my pancreas decided to step up to the plate and help out. Since it was my pancreas' first time at singing, it produced a broken down note that sounded like some wounded, prehistoric, extraterrestrial bird from a planet not yet named. I heard it in my head. I was hoping it was somebody's cell phone or a siren. Nope. It was me. I heard the sopranos desperately helping a sister out--singing the note I was SUPPOSED to have sung.
While I was preoccupied with being tired, not wanting to cry, and sounding like a re-fried, hot steaming mess, someone needed to know that Cancer is not always a death sentence. Someone needed to know that Cancer is an equal opportunity disease, but God is a healer. The concert had a dual purpose. The main focus was on educating and encouraging. I wasn't there by accident.
During the finale, the very gracious Kurt Carr motioned for me to sing a little on "For Every Mountain". In my mind, I was all vocally tapped out and quite content to sing along with the choir. Lorraine Stancil was doing just fine as far as I was concerned! I hesitated, but he wasn't taking no for an answer. I really have to hug him the next time I see him. God really has a way to remind you that what you do is not about you at all. Somehow my brain and voice started liking each other again, and my pancreas went back to its day job. (Thanks Lord. I get it.)
The words someone wrote about my performance on Twitter were pointed out to me later in the evening. I couldn't be mad. I was expecting a beating, since one of the things Twitter affords professional and amateur critics, is the opportunity to say whatever they want, about whomever they want-- in real time. Either only a handful of people who were in attendance use Twitter, or people were being VERY kind. He tweeted that he wished others could have heard the note I hit. I'm still a little mortified that so many DID hear it!) It hurt a little to be ridiculed by a stranger, but he was entitled to his opinion--AND he was right. When people pay to hear music, they expect it to be good, so I tweeted an apology. To my surprise and relief, he apologized to me. Turns out that he is a singer, too. He tweeted, "I want to be the picture that pops up when you google neosoul". I thought that was pretty cool. God knows NONE of us want to be the picture that pops up when you google "hot mess". Our twitter exchange ended very graciously, and for that, I thank God that civility and home training still exist in cyberspace.
I keep telling people there is a reason why you won't EVER hear me bashing other singers no matter how bad they may be. Last night was the PRECISE reason why. You just never know when you open your mouth and find that Edith Bunker, Hyacinth Bucket and a 112 year-old, crying frog have taken up residence in your throat. You know your limitations though, I should have known to play it a little safer. Sometimes you have to decide for the sake of everyone's precious hearing. If you're all choked up and about to cry, for God's sake, abort! Abort! Bail out! Sing tenor!
My critic (who is my new twitter friend) reminded me, "One note isn't a performance, just like one bad day isn't a life. We all have our moments". I really appreciated that.
I have to admit, though, I hope and pray my "moment" ends up on the editing room floor and promptly transferred to the editing room shredder. Lord, please don't let it be the Laugh of the Day on youtube.
If it is, though, I still had a wonderful time, got to see and sing with friends, and met the very gracious (and fine) Malik Yoba. (By the way, Lord, great work.)
Many thanks to my friend, the very talented Nolan Williams, for always including me in his musical work, and everyone associated with the American Cancer Society for their tireless efforts toward a world where Cancer is a thing that USED to be.