There is a fine line between the possibility of something wonderful happening, in a tiny moment, when you least expect it. It happened in a room at Mackay Conservatorium workshop for young people, exploring with me, the possibilities of bringing a song to life.
A song presents initially, to an artistic interpreter (singer) as a series of black marks on paper; the hard labour of composer and lyricist. It once lived in their hearts and minds. It is now committed to a written form ready to be shared with others. This is a near daily occurrence for professional singers.
The challenging responsibility for breathing life into these marks on the page is daunting. The deconstruction from material form to organic noises is an art - a performing art. Sinews and muscles and imagination and technique, bring pressure to bear on the heart and mind to reveal something of oneself. The performer singer's unique personalised life giving revelation becomes a work of art in itself. The ownership and inspiration lives in the ether momentarily, for as long as it lasts and then some.
It is time for someone to sing. A young girl, dance student and eisteddfod trained, in perfect 'presentational' performance, slips twixt the banal and the truth. This is the most easily ‘twixty’ place to slip and therein lies hundreds and hundreds of young and old performers, filling their cups with the belief that self expression requires little or no investment from self. The detailed and misguided work required to cover up the real you, is immense, often unconscious and makes perfect sense of the notion that the devil is in the detail. In this case, the devil obstructs the true nature of a young girl who is bursting with ability, yet disengaged from the true meaning of her role in this music making.
The young girl sings, Waiting for Life from the Musical Once up on this Island by Lynne Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. No one else in the room waits for life like this girl. She is standing on the edge of a precipice about to dive in, held back by her unformed fear and others expectations. A perfect song and the perfect young girl and yet as impressive as she is, we don’t see her. We only see the black marks on the page presented with style and poise. Why is this not enough?
Impressive as she is she has emptied herself from the song and delivered us Ahrens and Flaherty. Two old farts (wonderful writers) living in America who are certainly living life to the full.
Now, the search is on for young girl who stands on the wooden floor, in the glassed in room, next to Pansy's Memorial Piano, the beautiful accompanist poised, with other young attendees attentive...just..... And older ones fidgeting and wondering ... WTF!
It’s simple, so simple yet so elusive. The equation is natural. We are who we are by virtue of what we do. Whatever the context of this song, in the Musical, it doesn’t matter. She has only one choice. She has to be in this room waiting for life. What are you doing? Singing... No you’re not you’re...? …umm telling people something...NO, you are longing, waiting, wondering, dreaming, resenting, praying, transfixed and bursting with hope and expectation. ‘…you mean like ... oh’! ... Yep.
Do you know what that feels like? Can you think like that? Can you do that? - Thought, feeling, action informing sound. Ok?
You are leaning against the coconut tree feet on the hot sand. You know what that feels like. Don’t move. Stop hiding behind your beautiful expressive but distracting hands, and… demand that life begin for you. Stand inside and in front of Ahrens and Flaherty and reveal yourself.
The young girl did just that. It went something like this.
A stranger white In a car Going somewhere Going far... SHE SAW THE CAR... HEY SO DID WE How it must feel to go racing Wherever you please… SHE LOOKED EXCITED Flying as free as a bird With his tail in the breeze …SHE RODE ON THE TAIL AND WE WERE SWEPT UP WITH HER Even the fish in the sea Must be longing to fly…. AND WE LOOKED DOWN THROUGH HER GLISTENING EYES AT THE FISH Catching a glimpse of a stranger In white racing by. WHO THE HELL IS THAT STRANGER? DON'T KNOW, DON'T CARE ...TELL US MORE GIRL
A stranger! Racing down the beach Racing to places I was meant to reach My stranger One day you'll arrive The car will stop And in I'll hop And off we'll drive...We'll drive! Oh, gods Oh, gods Please, be there WOW, SHE IS REALLY ANGRY WITH THE GODS. GO GIRL Don't you remember Your little Ti Moune from the tree Wake up! Look down! Hear my prayer Don't single me out And then forget me... Oh gods, oh gods Let me fly Send me to places No one before me has been You spared my life Show me why You get me to rise Like a fish to the bait And tell me to wait Well, I'm waiting... AND ON SHE WENT SOARING PURE AND RAW AND TRUE …. UNTIL Waiting for Life to Begin!
We wept. Family. Friends. Teachers. Not her. She was and is waiting for life to begin. The reasons we were all so moved are varied and messy. The simple common denominator was the ownership she took of the song that glistened twixt the truth and the detail and was just.... heaven... Grateful. Grateful.