Friday, May 30, 2014

From Agony to Ecstacy

Yesterday afternoon at 4:30 Pam and I left our hotel for a five block walk to the St. John’s and St. Peter’s church to hear the Westminster Choir in concert. 4:30 being the hottest time of the day in Charleston, by the time we arrived at the church we were covered in sweat. We handed over our tickets to the extremely tanned lady at the door and were told to walk up to the balcony, whereupon we were shocked to discover that we had no assigned seats. It was first come, first served and the only seats left were in tortuous wooden booths with seat backs at 90 degree angles complete with a sharp rail along the top that cut directly into your back. Even this would have been semi-tolerable if these seats had afforded us a decent view of the proceedings, but no…when seated we could see approximately zero percent of the choir. However, when standing we could catch brief glimpses of the top of Patrick’s head. Needless to say, having paid real money for these tickets, our anger gauge was rising along with the temperature in the building as the place became standing room only by the time the choir began their first number.

The choir began in the stairwells at the back of the auditorium, singing as if walled up in a tower. It required extra effort to hear the beautiful harmonies so everyone became silent, straining to hear. Then suddenly one of the most moronic ringtones in a universe full of such annoyances began blaring in the hall. (Think, computerized Barnum and Bailey circus music!) This despite an impassioned plea for all of us to silence our cell phones a mere five minutes before by a speaker trying to avoid this very type of thing. Anyway, it took this insufferably self-absorbed idiot an eternity to find and silence the phone, sending my already high blood pressure soaring.

Then something amazing happened. About the time I was prepared to storm the box office and castigate them for selling me a bogus seat and demanding restitution, the choir began to perform a song called “Alleluia” composed by a former member of this storied choir. The textured harmonies flowed through the building like a balm. I began to feel the muscles in my neck relax. The tension in my arms and back began to slowly uncoil. By the end of this beautifully performed piece, all was forgiven.

At the end of their magnificent performance, Joe Miller’s fabulous choir began an encore with the Sammy Fain classic, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Many of the oldest members in the audience were crying. I was mesmerized. Once again, I bear witness to the power of music to transform the human spirit, in my case from surly anger and frustration to a place of peace and beauty.

Well done, Westminster. Well done.