Day 73, yet Day 72 feels like three weeks ago. How does that happen? Glad it's over?
I am, except that it's not.
We still have two concerts to do tomorrow, postponed from last Sunday due to snow. But now that Christmas is over, it doesn't seem like stress anymore. It just sounds like fun, now.
True confessions: These concerts, while fun, are also hard. There is immense pressure on the musician standing in front of a full house of people who've paid to be there. You really feel like you have to do it right, make it worth their money, give people a wonderful experience. You can be joyful and excited about it and perform beautifully, or you can get really worried that you might not play it right, and then... not play it right. I know this is true, because it happened to a very close friend of mine. Know her?
Secret (Please don't tell anyone): I was so burnt out from the intense focus on these concerts leading up to Christmas that once the holiday was upon us, I did not even touch the flute for four days, from Tuesday through yesterday. We love, love, love music, but performing can be really challenging, especially when you're also focused on performing for family and friends in the rest of your life: Will you meet your work deadlines? Will your children enjoy the holidays the way they should? Will you find just the right gifts for hubby? Will you get all the gifts bought and wrapped? Will the cards get out in time? Will you have time to visit the most important people during the season? Will you have enough butter for the Christmas mashed potatoes? Will the house be decorated so that all who arrive feel the joy?
Yes, to all. Except the cards. But yours is in the mail, I promise.
Alas, the pressure's almost off now! This morning, the day after Christmas, all I wanted to do was go straight downstairs and play, which I did, and I enjoyed it. Funnily enough, one of the first things I decided to work on was the particularly difficult harmony part for "Joy to the World," which we're playing in our Christmas concerts... Up until the concerts, I'd been having a really hard time memorizing it. Working on it over and over, singing it to myself, and still I couldn't get it down. Guess what? This morning, I pulled out the flute and played it perfectly, first time. Sing it with me: "Joy to the world! The lord is gone!"
Uh-oh, I think I see a lesson here.
My mind keeps returning to that poster that we found: God made music that we might pray without words.
When music is about performing, impressing, perfecting, it's not so much about praying or playing. That's what keeps many, many fellow musicians away from performing. They love the informality and camaraderie of the house session, but they hate performing. Many say they really don't ever want or need to be on stage. Too much darn pressure. Once you're on stage, the expectations go right up. You're not supposed to screw up. And if you do, you're submitting yourself to the judgment of every person in that audience, never mind the world's harshest critic, yourself.
But then there's this, a new quote that a friend sent on Christmas, just in time:
"Use what talent you possess: The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."*
The question remains: do you just sit happily in your own tree and sing away, or can you be happy when you find the tallest tree in the forest and sing for the hikers who are passing through? Are you singing when they're not there? Do you keep singing when they leave?
How about this: Let's all sing like no one's listening... even when they are! And for God's sake, keep singing when they leave.
*Thank you, Auntie Hen.