So I arranged for my mother-in-law to sing in church last Sunday. I was so excited. I’ve played for her in her ward before but never in ours. She has an amazing gift to which she has devoted most of her life to cultivation. She is a professional opera singer and a bel canto somethingorother. I’m not a singer, but I know she’s awesome and I typically can’t stand vocalists.
We were working on “Away in a Manger”, a beautiful arrangement that had been composed specifically for her. The accompaniment, if done correctly, sounds like chimes, and is amazing. It’s also difficult, so when, on Wednesday, I found out that the other musical number was also “Away in a Manger” I was a little relieved that I had more time to learn the music the right way. We performed “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, instead, and the accompaniment was considerably easier to learn, though still non-traditional. The music evokes the simple but slightly dissonant feel of American folk tunes; I think of “Appalachian Spring” when I play it.
The thing is, I don’t think people got it. I got even less comments about her singing than I do when I play a solo, which is crazy because she is such an amazing singer! I know I lost my spot (morethanonce) but I covered it well and everyone was listening to her anyway. I know that she’s a classically-trained singer and that laypeople consider opera to be unapproachable, but I find her to be easy to listen to, even for people who do not understand and appreciate opera.
And so what if she didn’t use the microphone? She was loud enough. And anyway, a good singer should absolutely not be using the microphone. But I have heard people in the congregation make comments that all singers should be respectful of the other people in the group and sing into the microphone so everyone can hear. Could someone have really thought that about her? (If she wanted to, that woman could wake the dead. She does not need a microphone.)
Did they not like the music because it did not end on a major chord? I thought the music really added to the song, but maybe people just want to be spoonfed what they already know?
This isn’t about me wanting more attention for my art. While I appreciate the compliments when they come, I always feel a little funny because I worry that people think I’m playing to show off how great I am and I never want to seem showy. I want to play in church to help bring the Spirit and share my love of music with others. If what I play really isn’t edifying the audience, I don’t really want to do it.
I’m definitely overthinking this. But the next thing I do will be with a cellist, and we are both pretty rusty (even after my last two pieces) so it’ll probably be a pretty “safe” choice. I hope that’ll make people happy. I just want to make people happy. (Did I mention yet that my New Year’s resolution is to be more emotionally independant?)