>A Life Of Its Own

>Yesterday at rehearsal it was the choristers, the group of kids who sing in the opening and closing of the opera. This group of kids who lends their voices to infuse this piece with an authenticity that cannot be artificially created by electronics or adults. The voice, the energy, the bobble-headed trueness of children is a sharp knife in the sometimes-doughy presence of grown-ups, as we are referred to by these pint-sized singers.

This opera was easy to cast and imagine as it is driven by truth. I was the mother in this piece, I am now the writer and director, but I know what actually happened and as much as possible I am trying to make it adhere to the reality of September 11 and the month following. I had children, I have them still, but they are big now. I went to my son’s school and there were also other children present. I took 11 of them home with me. We walked, ran and hunkered in the streets of TriBeCa and now the opera needs children to give voice to some of the simple things that occurred.

There are constant roll calls that these now choral kids sing, in rounds, or spoken, pitched semi-singing. We started with four kids; three dropped out, all from the same family. We promoted an eight-year-old girl, Madison, from background to a lead role, that of the son. Why not? Lisa the head of the Church Street School of Music and art knew of Cecelia Gaul, who sings in the chorus of Trinity Church and this new girl joined us. It turns out she is a friend of Madison’s, cool small world piece. Cecelia’s mother knows the choirmaster at Trinity Church I have met with Rob Ridgell and after Cecelia’s mom, Yachi, called Rob, the chorus spigot opened and the flow of kids began. Scarlet and Dante followed. (You can’t make up names and children this wonderful.)

Yesterday I began to see how this piece now has a life of its own. It has people who believe and love it who are no longer from my circle, although we now co-occupy spheres. I sat and watched as fathers tan from tennis, or pink from walks, watched their children perform and listened with a kind of awe that comes from marveling at their aplomb. “It that a rest and do I come in on the up beat?” This professionalism melts during the break to a jumping contest for the light strings and conductor Carl picks up on this competitiveness by creating a “pitch contest” at the end of the final movement.

All of this has nothing to do with me. Oh blessedly. This was my harebrained idea, but it has transitioned far from my initial vision. It is the child who is deciding that study and practice is a great thing rather than drudgery. Calling is leaping to its feet through the passion of a group of Downtown organizations, parents and their hugely talented children. It is being midwived by many, including a young composer and conductor, Carl Bettendorf who has taken on private coaching and helping at every turn. There are new musicians who have thrown their lot in with us and singers, who are practicing while walking the streets or, like Gretchen Garvin, sing while working in their store.

Calling has a life of its own, and I have fantasies and expectations for its future, just as I do with my children, but it also pushes me to view and love it in the present tense. For right now we have a group of nearly 20 people who have come together from Europe, across American, Canada and Asia to make this piece. Somehow the universe has plunked down a most diverse group in this show as if to shore up the idea that America, and the hope of the world is in the actuality of all of us, so different and yet so united working toward a common goal.


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