Monday, 17 November 2008

Kol Isha

This coming Wednesday has been circled on my calendar in red for almost a year. On that evening, I will join together with 5 of my colleagues and participate in a concert that has become known as Kol Isha -An Evening of Women's Voices. For one fateful night in November, the women cantors and soloists from the GTA will put our talents(?) on public display in support of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.  A bucketful of emotions has been churning within me for the better part of six months, and any attempt to validate them would seem strangely sad and pathetic.  Instead, I thought that I might share with you some of my observations of our preparations over the past year or so.  

  1. The company that I have been keeping lately is astounding.  The talent of these women, both individually and collectively, is all at once truly remarkable and truly frightening.  I find myself torn between being in constant awe and being continually intimidated.  This group of women came together without much of a blueprint for the concert, but we have worked collegially without ego and without discord, (like the pun?) to strike a musical balance that I think really works. 
  2. It was important to me right from the very beginning of this project that we "be ourselves" and not attempt to emulate the men, who have been giving these concerts for generations.  While we all agreed on this principle, finding music that would fit our criteria and yet be suitable for the woman's voice was a challenge.  We started out hoping to do only pieces that were composed by women, but that proved limiting in terms of the types of music that we could do.  In the end we compromised in composition, but refused to compromise in ourselves.  While many of the pieces have been composed by women, some have not and that is okay given the musical standards that we have set for ourselves.
  3. We all came together to present this project, but we all come from very different places. There is an age range that spans decades, vocal ranges that spans octaves, musical styles that are varied and Judaic backgrounds that are eclectic.  We are all used to singing as soloists, and yet we have had to check those expectations at the door in order to sing as a group.  Some are comfortable with traditional chazzanut, while others are enmeshed with the more modern Jewish musical experience.  Some have known for a lifetime that this was a calling, while others fell into it by accident.  Some of us have day jobs, while some pursue it full time, but all of us have a true passion for the music and it shows in every note and every song.  (As an aside--I have joked during our rehearsals that at times I have felt like the Appalachian cousin whose musical stylings are more the "picking and grinning" type, which are in direct contrast to some of the more fluid and lyrical offerings. I am perfectly fine with this characterization because I have come to realize that all of our musical gifts are valid musical gifts and it would be terribly boring if we all derived from the same cookie-cutter mold. On the other hand, it is difficult to pretend that you are "Live From the Met" when you are much more comfortable with "Hee Haw"!!)
  4. I am a performer who hates performing. I realize that this is a somewhat incongruous statement given my chosen line of work, but it came into focus for me when one of our group was able to better articulate it than was I. I see myself as a musical facilitator of prayer.  I enjoy the music because it is a vehicle that transports me to the spiritual plane. Singing with my choir or congregation is a natural extension of this collective prayer. Transferring what I view as an intuitive skill on the bimah, to a somewhat unnatural competency on a stage has been a true challenge for me.  I know that stretching myself has been a real positive in this experience, but I still find performing to be quite the foreign concept.  
  5. A natural extension of this aversion to performance, is all of the "stuff" that goes along with performing.  I can honestly say that my wardrobe is not usually one of my prime concerns.  I throw on a pair of black pants or a black suit and I am dressed.  I could care less about accessories or how accent colours fit with lighting schemes. I don't give much thought to backstage food (I rarely eat on the day of a performance) or if the water backstage will be in environment-friendly bottles or single servings. It is a very good thing that I am working with people who do find importance in what I used to believe was superfluous detail, because without them I would be dressed for a coffee house (beret is optional!) instead of a theatre.  Thank you to everyone who became a detail-oriented maniac throughout this process, because I would be lost, parched and dressed like a refugee from a Kerouac novel without you all.  
And so, my friends, the day that has been haunting me for months, is drawing near.  I am excited, exhilarated, terrified, numb, giddy, and even somewhat horrified.  My chronic stage-fright has kicked into overdrive and my stomach feels as though it has been through more than a few turns on a theme-park ride. If I don't completely humiliate myself, I will regale you all with some backstage gossip.   

1 comment:

  1. Celia, Barry and I are really looking forward to this - we know it will be wonderful! Thanks for all that you have put in to it - your time, your talent, and your heart!