I have been laboring over this piece now for days. It’s the first time I’ve ever sung alto in a choir, and my reading skills are finally being honed after years of skirting by on melody. My music is all marked up in a vain attempt to make sense of the accidentals and crazy key changes and seemingly senseless alto line.
I take a deep breath.
I plunk out the notes again.
Jen tells me to listen to the recording, to try to pick out my part.
“Copland thinks chordally, so it’s really helpful,” she says.
The first moment we began singing it in choir, I thought: Have I sung this before? How do I know this?
Ah, years ago. In Boston — Jen was the soloist and my mom and I had travelled down to see her. It’s a big piece. An overwhelming piece. And I could feel right away that I had heard it before.
It’s kicking my butt.
~ ~ ~
Miss Hawkins, is English your life?
[Just one of them.]
In reference to Edmond Dantés and Mercédès:
Well, obviously they didn’t love each other enough, or they would have waited. They would have gotten married.
[Hold on: What about circumstances? What about life? Is it possible that you can love someone deeply but have it not work out?]
In reference to Aylmer and Georgiana in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark:”
I think he really loved her. He was trying to help her.
[Woah, woah, woah! Careful. What is love? Aylmer obsesses over a tiny blemish on his wife’s cheek, to the point where it is all he sees of her. All her beauty and charm and kindness means nothing. Is that love? Trying to change someone? Trying to make them perfect?]
In reference to a grammar grade:
Wait – so you took a whole point off because I missed a verb tense?
[Yes, it’s called grammar.]
Why aren’t you married yet?
[Because I haven’t met anyone I wanted to see every day for the rest of my life.]
[Here is where I wonder at their ideas of love and marriage. How I find it more amazing that anyone has found someone they like enough to see every day than it is that I haven’t.]
Why do you like writing so much? It’s boring.
[No! My heart!]
Why would you want to become a teacher?
[Here, I pause. Why? Do I tell them the truth? That it crept up on me and surprised me? That really, these twelve faces are the reason I became a teacher? And all their manifestations? They think I am not cool because I’m a teacher. This bums me out.]
Miss Hawkins, can I have some of your buffalo chicken calzone?
~ ~ ~
As difficult as the Copland has proven to be, it isn’t the piece that excites me. It’s the Whitacre that puts bubbles in my blood, makes my heart swirl. I listen to it over and over. I imagine da Vinci, consumed, obsessed, like Aylmer in Hawthorne’s short story.
the sirens’ song
I wonder what it must be like to feel compelled to create. To destroy the boundaries that the known world has imposed.
I sink into the low notes with silky enjoyment of their depth.
I paint pictures with my voice.
[7th graders: This is one of my other lives.]