Being a musician can sometimes be a frustrating thing. I often feel that if I’d put half as much of the effort I’ve put into music into anything else, I’d probably be making a great living at it. Still here I am, another amateur musician struggling through a 40-hour work week, and then finding the time afterward to reap a little artistic fulfillment with the various musical and music-related activities that fill my spare time.
There are some times though, when the reason that I (like so many others) put so much effort into music becomes abundantly clear to me. A couple of examples in recent weeks come to mind, both of them involving the Bach Cantata Choir.
A few weeks ago, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, I had the privilege of singing with about eight or nine members of the BCC (along with a whole slew of other great singers from various choirs around town). Along with the great musicians from Classical Revolution Portland and others, we were able to help raise over $4000 for Partners in Health for immediate use in aiding the survivors in that disaster zone. I know that All Classical Radio gave us free publicity, and rumor has it that OPB opened up their e-mail list to CRPDX as well. Sure, even $4000 is only a drop in the bucket in comparison to the magnitude of the need there, but still—all of this was done by artists, musicians, and the organizations that support them. I felt a welling of pride as we sang the ‘Lacrimosa’ from Mozart’s Requiem by way of honoring those who perished, and a surge of hope as we did an improvised rendition of The Beatles ‘With a Little Help from My Friends.’ This last was for the survivors but also for us, to help combat the despair we feel at the plight of our fellow travelers. It served as a reminder to me of the power of music—not just the abstract power to heal the heart and uplift the human spirit, but a real, nuts-and-bolts power, the ability that music has to be a driving force for good.
Another thing that stands out in my mind is more related to an artistic rather than humanistic level, and that was singing the U.S. premiere of Johann Schelle’s ‘Lobe den Herr, Meine Seele.’ This amazing, middle-baroque masterwork that had never seen the light of day in America was an absolute blast to sing. With the resplendent brass choir, the massed strings and the mighty sound of two choruses, it was a rousing finish to a great concert, and I was justly proud of our whole group and my small part in it as the full house suddenly and spontaneously rose to its feet. I was thrilled to be part of such a group, one able to do something of so much worth and artistic value. Sometimes it’s great to be a musician.