There is something about being in a group of people that attempt to make music together. I experience this every week, for two hours. I recently joined Peoria International Choir. Men and women of different ages and from various corners of the world just get together and sing. Some come straight from work, others from whatever problems their lives bring to them. But for those two hours they all focus on something: music.
There are moments when I do not sing, and so I have time to watch their faces. It is just incredible, really, to see a person disappear and be fully present at the same time. Sure, it is still John or Mary, carrying their own problems, but it is also the alto, the soprano, the tenor… And on top of it all, a human being singing with others. At times I think that those two hours of music represent an escape from life, from its busy-ness; in fact, the whole experience is a going toward life, or a recovering of it. Somehow it feels as if we are expressing our humanity by losing ourselves into that which comes out of our being together. People together for and in music (I would say “intru muzica,” in Romanian).
We look different: some with European background, some Asian, others North American, still others South American. We speak different languages at home. But there, for two hours, we speak the same language, music, even if it also has words–English, German, or some other language. It is a beautiful constellation, I would say, and, being so, it reminds me always of how far away I am from participating into its beauty. For none of them can shine to their highest level if I do not offer my witness to music. None of them can fully experience beauty if I do not bring my little light with me.
I once heard that an orchestra is only as good as its weakest member. I think this is wrong. This choir, at least, is much better than its weakest member: me. But there is one more aspect: its goodness and its potentiality for goodness face me with my responsibility. Not a moral responsibility; it is rather a call: “see how beautiful I can be; don’t you love my beauty; don’t you want to witness for it?”
I have not practiced much for the choir, and this can be seen in my “performance.” I always find other “responsibilities” that take priority. But this is because I do not focus on its beauty. Every Tuesday night, when its beauty shines upon me, I wonder about how I could have chosen to do other things instead of practicing. And, while I promise myself it won’t happen again, I then fall again into obliviousness and the busy-ness of life, and a new Tuesday comes without having done much for the choir. It is truly humbling to see all these wonderful people singing around you, welcoming you, bringing forward the song even if you don’t do much for it. And then Masako, our conductor, God bless her heart, suffering from the absence of the music she knows you are capable of providing. Am I not there for them as well?
Peoria International Choir is indeed a beautiful thing, regardless of its weakest member. Go watch them if you have the occasion. As for me, here I am again, thinking about music instead of practicing. To practice!