On Monday night, I returned to rehearsal with the Back Bay Chorale. We rehearse on Newbury Street, about a block from where the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, and since we rehearse on Mondays, last week’s rehearsal was a no-go. But this past Monday, we were back, and our fearless leader Scott Allen Jarrett had some beautiful things to say.
Many of us probably felt a bit helpless on the day of the event, but many of us also tried to find ways to respond that would be productive in some way. As not all of us can be first responders, or firefighters, or police, or doctors, we looked for ways to connect. To help the grieving. To begin the healing. Scott plugged us choristers in to what it is that we do, and how much it truly helps. Here is an excerpt from his letter to us:
As creative people, we feel the impulse to actively participate in making music, as affirmation of our communities. And in so doing, we each become ‘first responders’ of a sort. Some of you sang the Brahms Requiem last night. Others of us sang Messiah Saturday night. Still others raised the roof of the Garden with the National Anthem at the Bruins game.
Tonight we’ll gather to rehearse Carmina Burana. There is no In Paradisum or Selig sind die Toten, a Heaney sonnet, or even an energetic Et vitam venturi. But these texts are in our shared musical vocabulary. They are the reason we can so ably and readily respond in time of need. We have practiced being a community before. And we will do just that tonight and next Monday and in all our future rehearsals and performances….
Most of the time, I’m interested to care for the music, and in so doing, care for one another, each receiving in her own way. And so tonight, come and sing, work hard and sing more right notes, get better, learn a few more words. But let’s ‘lean forward’ together and look for ways to care for one another. This practice of community is and will be a healing and necessary affirmation for us all.
At the rehearsal itself, he drew us together still more, his voice breaking a few times as he gave his earnest self to us, and to the music, yet again.
I am struck, again and again, by how healing music is, and how intimately related it is to the body, especially for singers. The ability to literally move vibrations through our bodies and produce sound, which then enters our own ears and others’, and which literally moves us and changes us, is a powerful gift. Sound, as psychology professor Anne Fernald explains, is like touch at a distance, and so the intimate relationship between Ilana Rubenfeld’s musicianship and her healing work begins to make more sense.
I feel blessed to be able to work with singers as a singer, and also, to work with performing artists as a healer. As we work together, we help each other to become more responsive – rather than reactive – in situations where what is called for is contact, community, and harmony.