JOY AND WORK
Our day free, some of us went to the Zocalo, the city center, to see the Indigenous Festival; others went to a nearby shopping center to eat at the churro stand recommended by the president of the Orquesta de Mineria. Some of us went to Six Flags to ride every roller coaster in sight. Ensemble Singer tenor Mike Fairbairn looked around him at one point and just realized how happy he was; he wanted to take a mental snapshot of the moment to keep forever.
Early in the tour, Ensemble Singer soprano Jennifer Bevington and alto Kristina Rodel Sorum came up with a tour practice of positive gossip. “I just want to say great things about people behind their backs,” Jennifer laughed. And we do.
Now at the end of our time here, there is of course some chafing. Tour always creates an artificial and strange society. People in general rarely have every meal together, work together, play together, and room together.
The introverts among us—and there are quite a few—but who also love being with people have to remember to spend time alone each day to keep from burning out. Even the extroverts are starting to feel a little ragged at the edges.
But we keep talking about how it’s almost downright shocking, how much the Ensemble Singers like one another. Philip always jokes that he auditions us 50% for our voices and 50% for our personality. And there’s a lot of truth in that. “One of the most memorable experiences is after rehearsals and concerts, and the bus is filled with laughter,” said Ensemble Singer soprano Meghan Lowe.
Tonight was our first concert of the Verdi Requiem. The concert hall was so hot, and we sit so close. We are layered in our tuxes and long black dresses, sweat drips down onto our scores, and then for the Requiem, we must emote sorrow and desperation and hellfire and love and send it out to thousands of strangers in the hall. Our bodies are wracked with the vibrations from the trumpets and the timpani and the bass drum (which is an utter thrill) and then later we must hold completely still, even still trembling with the orchestra’s last fortissimo.
I keep coming back to what it means to extend oneself. It’s hard work. It’s necessary work. In music, as in our daily friendships, as in our global situation, we have to come out of ourselves to meet one another. It’s pure joy sometimes. But even when it’s not—I don’t mean this as hyperbole in the least—our lives together depend on it.
In Mexico, musicians have a beautiful tradition at the end of every concert. While American musicians breathe a sigh of relief at the end of a long concert and leave the stage, Mexicans turn to all the people near them and embrace. Felicidades! they’ve taught us to say, as we hug and kiss one another on the cheek.
Our last concert is tomorrow. We are tired, and still trembling with the work we have done and the intense joy it has brought us.
Felicidades, friends. Abrazos.
In case you missed it, check out Postcards from Mexico-Day 6 HERE.