“It’s been a long dark night. And I’ve been waiting for the morning.” Not too many years ago, we sang these words in a concert filled with you wonderful people. In many ways, it feels like we are right in the middle of that long, dark night. Schools and businesses have been closed, concerts have been cancelled, and our government and health officials have instructed us to stay home and away from others as much as possible. I know that I have always been overly dramatic, but my senses tell me that this is the day the music died.
When the cancellations began, I first thought of how soul-crushing it would be to wander through the rest of the season without my Atlanta Master Chorale family – a community of loving, supportive, beautiful humans who just so happen to all be brilliant musicians. I longed to find something that could make me feel as though I were with them. And so, of course, I grabbed my headphones and played some recordings from our AMC Youtube channel. Oh, the tears! However, not caused by the immaculate singing. I cried because I could hear you – our incredible audience. I heard the occasional shuffling about in seats, the muffled coughs, the lovely gentleman that accidentally dropped his program in the middle of the softest, most tender moment of the piece, and, most importantly, I heard your most beautifully appreciative roaring applause. These sounds are indicators that something wonderous, magnificent, and mysterious is happening: a live concert. Friends, you are what we miss most. You give us joy, and you give us a reason to sing. Through tears, I continue to listen to these sounds. I cling to them, in hopes that I will hear them again soon at our beloved Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.
In an attempt to fill some newly discovered free time, I recently began going through boxes of books and organizing my bookshelf. In one box that hadn’t been touched in quite some time, I found one of my all-time favorite children’s books: Stone Soup. The story, for those that are unfamiliar, tells the tale of three tired and hungry travelers that arrive at a small village in hopes of getting some food and a good night’s rest. When they arrive, however, they find a village full of people that only wish for the travelers to leave at once. The villagers sadly inform them that they have had a very rough winter and do not have enough food for themselves, much less enough food to give to strangers. However, these three travelers are wise and put their wits to work. They announce that they are going to cook a large pot of stone soup, one that will be large enough to feed the entire village! Well, after the travelers drop the large stone into the pot of water, they confidently claim that it just needs a few more things before it is complete and delicious. While no one villager has enough items to make a delicious soup alone, there is one villager that has some parsley in his pantry, another that has some potatoes, another that has a bit of salt in her kitchen, and another – well, you’re catching on. Together, simply by offering the small bits that they had to give, they were able to help the travelers cook a huge pot of soup upon which the entire village feasted. My favorite line, to this day, comes after the feast when they begin to have a party: “and they all danced and sang into the night.”
This story has always been my favorite. Now that I am an adult, I have grown to love and appreciate the beautiful metaphor that Stone Soup presents to us all. And, even in this most peculiar time in which we all now find ourselves, I still find comfort and meaning in the idea that, when we work for each other rather than for ourselves, we form an infinitely more prosperous community. To quote E. E. Cummings: “and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.”
In this long dark night, it can truly feel like we all are now expected to make our own pot of stone soup, cut off from our village and using only our own ingredients. If you are like me, then your pot is simply full of water and a stone (and maybe Netflix and junk food). However, I take comfort in the fact that we will all be together again soon. I will hear the beautiful sounds of your rustling and your shuffling, we will sing and dance into the night, and we will once again be in that place where music touches spirit.