Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Music is the food of life

I went to a very special concert this weekend. I recently re-connected with a very dear friend of mine from high school (in fact, the very friend that introduced me to my husband). In the process of re-kindling our friendship, I found out that she was singing for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra's Pops concert this weekend. When she asked if we wanted to come, the answer was a resounding "Are you kidding?!?"

Kristen Eubanks has a big, rich jazz/blues/gospel voice. She has one of the most consistent voices I have ever heard. Of course, when we were kids, I thought she was wonderful. But now, I know that this is true.

Kristen sings from inside the song. She makes it her own and communicates the lyrics effectively, making it into everyone's song. Her rendition of the Etta James classic, "At Last" brought tears to my eyes.

The concert, under the direction of Matt Catingub (Honolulu Symphony Pops Conductor a.k.a. The Big Kahuna), was "An Evening of Big Band". Catingub was the conductor and arranger for the final concert that Rosemary Clooney gave. His arrangement of "You Go To My Head" is still stuck solidly in my head. It is breathtaking. You can find it on "Rosemary Clooney: The Last Concert" (2002).

As I was sitting in the theater, listening to the music that was the soundtrack of my childhood and teenage years, I was struck by the fact that I missed going to concerts very, very much. There is nothing like live music. Music performed by real musicians, face-to-face, is a communion of sorts. Even though (due to the acoustics in the room where we were) everything had to amplified, there is a feel that I get when I am sitting listening to a group of live musicians. I can feel their presence. I can feel the music in the core of my being. I don't get that feeling from any other music source.

When I experience live music, it is like being fed. I am inspired by other people's performances, by other people's experiences of music and lyrics and by the reactions of the people around me. There were moments when the orchestra was playing, or Matt or Kristen sang when it felt like no one was breathing, or maybe we were all breathing as one person. Certainly, you could have heard the proverbial "pin drop". It was beautiful. That would not have happened if we had been sitting in a room with a recording playing.

In the past year, we almost lost our Symphony Orchestra to financial concerns. Losing one of our Orchestras (we have a Jazz Orchestra and a Symphony Orchestra) would be a tragedy. I have heard more than one person say, "Well, if I want to listen to (fill-in-the-blank-with-a-composer-or-musician) then I'll just put on my CD. It's cheaper and sounds better." But, I think that they miss the point of music, specifically LIVE music. Music is not just about the sound and silence or about the money you make doing it (though musicians need to make a living, too, folks!). It is about the personal connection. Not hearing music live, and in person, has degraded it as a form of communication.

I have said before that music is an expression of body, mind and soul in a way that no other form of communication can be. But as much as we hear recorded music, can it really be classified as communication, or has it just become so much background noise?

If you haven't been to a live musical performance recently, I encourage you to go and experience one. Place yourself in the moment and let the music speak to you.

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