Surrendering control…to the Sun and the Moon(ey)

So now my eighteen some months of planning, scheming, visualizing, imagining, strategizing, and dreaming are over. Our ten short days have now transformed from the anticipated to the realized, tangible only in the memories of each of the travelers.

Well, that and on the hard drives, SD cards, and websites housing the many photos and video clips taken over the course of the trip.

I feel compelled to try and capture as many of the emotions as I can (while they are still fresh), writing this blog entry, editing video, making photo slideshows, etc. Those ten days felt but like ten hours to me, and they are all too quickly slipping from unreal to surreal.

I also have a counter full of souvenirs and trinkets to share or give away, things I can hold or touch that might trigger associative memories about the trip: signed concert programs, newspaper clippings, framed photos, brochures, clothing, jewelry… Having a decent memory I know I will be able to remember a great deal about the trip, but as I really want to keep EVERYTHING, that’s just not enough…

It’s like I’m trying to hold water in my hands and I don’t want to spill a single drop… And yet I’m profusely leaking.

So instead I must comfort myself in the knowledge that the real souvenirs can not be worn or saved or stored on hard drives and photo albums or even in treasured blog entries. The things that will stay with me are the things I learned — about the wonderful people in my beloved group, about our music and its impact on others, about the charm and hardships of the Irish people and culture, about how to adapt and grow while partaking in something as hectic as a concert tour, and more than anything, little discoveries I’ve made about myself and my abilities and challenges as a (somewhat reluctant) leader.

Perhaps one of the biggest one is learning to surrender control. I did my best to plan and anticipate how the trip might go, giving a great deal of thought to pacing and varied interests, hoping to please all the travelers (impossible, I know, but I had to try). And yet I knew going in there would be many things that would be out of my control (such as the weather) which could make or break the enjoyment of even my best laid plans….and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

Frightening shadows, flickering light…

Interestingly enough, I found the weather to be remarkably compliant for us. It seemed that it would be gorgeous on the days it really needed to be (such as our lake cruise!), rainy on the days we could handle it best (such as indoor tours), and strategically off-and-on around the times when we needed it most (the rest of the time). The clouds seemed to hold in their rain whenever we had to walk to a church for one of our performances (or wanted to take a photo in front), but let their droplets go just as we were finishing touring an area (which conveniently sped up the process of loading back onto the bus!).

I can’t explain why we would always get so lucky, but it gives me faith that I could come to rely upon one thing: Things Work Out.

Another example: I originally had some concern that, after what I suspected would be a highlight for many singers of performing with the other Irish choirs in Bandon (and getting to connect with the warm and friendly people), our performances after that would feel anticlimactic. Yes, they were to be in the most awe-inspiring cathedrals (St. Canice of Kilkenny and St. Patrick’s of Dublin), but we knew that the audiences would be sparse and consist more of curious tourists than Irish residents. Combining my suspicion that the singers would not have huge appreciative audiences to draw energy from, and that I suspected fatigue and even illness might be setting in for many by that point, I was a little worried our performances in those two very incredible cathedrals might fall flat….and again there was very little I could do about that.

Clouds of dream give second sight

If I had known how it would turn out, it would have been easier to surrender complete control. The performance in St. Canice was indeed a rather low turnout, and the singers (and their director) were all fatigued and low-energy (especially with two of our number down for that concert). But interestingly enough, I found that just made it easier for us focus on the most subtle of details, the most intimate connection between the voices. Several of our loyal and beloved “roadies” said it was the first time they could really revel in the words and meaning of the texts, hear the interplay and beauty of each voice and still enjoy the blended choral sound, and for many it was thus the best performance of them all.

Go figure.

The performance was more like a serene and contemplative meditation, beautiful and introspective, and echoed afterwards by the other-worldly atmosphere in the church’s graveyard outside. I could not have planned this very drastic departure from the previous night’s energetic and uplifting performance, and that is good because if I had I would not have seen its value…and we would have been robbed of something truly wondrous and thought-provoking.

Then I surrender…

St. Patrick’s in Dublin did not disappoint either, even though it was at huge risk to, being the venue the most highly anticipated by most if not all of the chorus. Though I suspected it might feel a bit disconcerting for the singers to sing for casual passers-by, I actually hoped the audience would not applaud so our music could simply add to the ambiance as the onlookers soaked up the beauty of the impressive cathedral. Indeed they were reverently quiet, and it was an absolute dream for me to taste and savor the several-seconds’ worth of lingering echo at the end of our more energetic and powerful pieces. Amazingly enough, they did spontaneous applaud after our ‘last’ piece, “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”, and seemed to help the singers get the appreciation they really deserved and craved. Again, this is something I could not have controlled, even though I was silently hoping it would happen!

However, that was not all…right after we finished the encore, the first person to come up and speak with me introduced himself as David Mooney — the arranger of our one Irish piece, “Dulaman”!!! Apparently he had seen some of the announcements of our performances in Ireland in the newspapers, but our performance in Dublin had not been listed, so he tracked down our website and discovered when and where we would be performing in Dublin (big thanks to Melissa’s husband, Bill Kendrick, for setting all that up!!!) Best part is that he was very impressed and complementary about our repertoire and execution!

Suffice it to say we spent a considerable amount of time chatting with him and taking photographs, and engaging in a bit of ‘hero-worship’ which he was understandably all too happy to accept. But seriously, he was very gracious and supportive and I’m so thrilled the entire chorus had a chance to meet him and speak with him. Definitely no risk of being anti-climactic there!

According to one of our number who sat next to him during the performance, he agreed with her statement that we were a special group, adding, “Yes, they are good. They are really, really good!”  He also e-mailed me later that afternoon to say, “It was wonderful to meet you and your wonderful choir today. I really enjoyed the whole performance – an excellently chosen programme and delivered with great musicianship and style. Your group makes a really beautiful sound – congratulations to you all.”

*Blush* 😀

The strangest part is that I had given this some thought well over a year ago, when I was programming our ‘Music of British Isles and Ireland’ concert and planning this trip. When I was researching for the concert program, I had discovered that David Mooney lived and worked in Dublin, and fantasized that it would be very neat if we could meet up with him while we were there…but soon dismissed it as highly unlikely and didn’t work to try and set something up. And yet here it happened anyway, completely unplanned, and because of that we enjoyed a much bigger honor, since he CHOSE to come to hear us, and went to extra trouble to do so.

Now the true test will remain: Will I be able to surrender in the future as well?

What dreams may come both dark and deep, of flying wings and soaring leap…

Well, the best I can do is try to remember: Things Work Out.

-Tracia Barbieri (director)

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One Response to “Surrendering control…to the Sun and the Moon(ey)”

  1. Allegra Silberstein Says:

    This was a beautiful entry…thank you so much for this intimate sharing and all the best…Allegra

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