Today should have been a day of singing.
After a great deal of planning and practicing, I was to have presented a recital in the afternoon – a pleasant little vanity I called “The Perfect Day: Songs of the Ordinary and Splendid” accompanied by my gifted friend Hannah Payne on the piano.
Instead I am here on my island.
There is music here on the island, and to be certain I can always sing through all the pieces in the concert (as I have done several hundred times) – the Bernstein and the Gershwin and the Vaughan Williams. But music can be sad and solitary when we sing it to ourselves. At some level it is always meant to be shared.
Without spoiling too many surprises (I have every intention of forcing my voice on people again when the madness ends) I had planned a message in the recital in which I now find some comfort. The program was to have been structured around what the Perfect Day might look like, starting with songs of joy and play (the Morning), then work and love (the Day). But in what might be called the third quarter of the recital, the Evening, I was going to change the tone to one of sadness and yearning. I was going to introduce the segment with a caution about the word ‘perfect’ which has never meant ‘wonderful’ or ‘all we could ever want’ as we tend to use it. ‘Perfect’ (from the Latin ‘perficio’ – ‘made thoroughly’) means ‘complete.’ It is the sum of all things, good and bad, rich and wanting. Sorrow is not a bad thing. It is merely part of the thing – as integral a part as the joy or the love.
In the wonderful song “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks, there is a deathless lyric in the last verse: “Deep in December it’s nice to remember/ without a hurt the heart is hollow.”
When we look back on our own fires of September, we will think about this time of uncertainty and pain and maybe we will feel the blessings that filled in the emptiness after the scare had gone. And then, in relief, we will be grateful for the return of love and joy and of the sharing of song.