Performances light a flame in my soul that I don’t know how to explain in words. You just have to go through the experience to understand what I mean. I haven’t been able to understand why I come close to tears when watching or listening to a performance (musical or theatrical), and it frustrates me when I don’t get the sense that others are feeling what I’m feeling. The adrenaline rush in the midst of a chase, the heartbreak of death, the agony of loneliness, the warmth of a caress.
When I experience a performance, I feel a deep emotional connection to it. But I don’t want to just feel connected to it, I want to be part of it. To help others feel how I feel. It’s not enough for me to turn to the person next to me, grab their shoulders, and exclaim, “Did you feel that? Did it break your heart like it did mine? Didn’t you want to die with them, get married with them, run with them, breathe with them?” Because I can’t make a person feel something. They have to do that on their own. The best I can do is convey that feeling to them.
When I was younger, I had the privilege of singing in a children’s choir that performed in Philadelphia. We once performed a cantata entitled “The Long Bright,” along with a full orchestra and some amazing adult soloists. Provided the link works, I’ll let this website explain the story:
The Long Bright | Schola Cantorum on Hudson
Of course, reading about it and listening to recordings is not nearly the same as being there in the moment. I tend to think I got more out of it as a performer than the audience members did, because I was part of the family that understood the hard work that made that performance possible. But it’s not just about the family. I remember approaching the end of the piece and thinking, “This is it. It’s nearing the end. I’m not going to be able to experience this again.” I savored those last moments, and as the final melodies floated away I could see Anni in my mind, flying to heaven on those last notes. I hope the listeners saw the same thing, but I also think it was a secret that the performers and the writers shared, and could only be told in part to the audience.
This video pretty much sums up my thoughts on communicating through performing for others: