We had gathered at the Norfolk Music Center in Norfolk, Connecticut; disparate threads to be woven into a tapestry of celebration by the shared affection for two friends who were exchanging vows and rings. Having travelled from New York and D.C., California and Oregon, Iowa and Canada and Turkey (just to name the ones I know about), convened by their love in this magnificent setting, we shared meals, cottages, a mansion, and a stage. All that, plus of course common cause.
And so we rehearsed -- first for the wedding and then for the celebratory concert that would follow it. The former was easy compared to the latter, though emotions might have run higher practicing the procession and the vows even if the kiss came effortlessly enough. For the concert there was the orchestra run through, followed by a second run through with the soloists, and always the sound checks and tweaks and maneuvering of the mics. There were cues and corrections and suggestions and replays. There was glorious music, and laughter, hard work, and always those smiles...
...as if we were having a ball. I certainly can't speak for everybody, and it's always dangerously presumptuous to generalize from one's own experience, but I think I'm safe to say it: we were. Hard work? Yes. Important? Breathtakingly so. Exhilarating, inspiring, soaringly beautiful? Absolutely. Fun? Faces don't light up that way for any other reason.
But here is the wonder. The officiant notwithstanding, the people assembled on that stage were stars -- Grammy award winners, YouTube sensations, chart-topping recording artists, leads from Broadway, London, the Met; veterans of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Presidential Galas, movie soundtracks and more; vocalists, instrumentalists, tap dancers, composers, arrangers and a groom/conductor. Yet there was a selfless collegiality that transcended the individual star power. There was playful banter. Breaks were filled with laughter. And when the songs were being played, delight was in the faces. The grins were everywhere as they played. Soloists took their spotlight moments, and then effortlessly receded into harmony role or backup chorus as another took the lead. No assemblage of peacocks, this was an artful community manifesting the homily's message that we need each other. From the tinkling wind chimes to the piercing trumpet, from the lush strings to the haunting flute, the tapping feet to the Hammond B3, from the rhythm of the drums to the intoxicating voices, we need each other. In this case we could hardly get enough of each other.
And as evidenced Saturday night, when we give the gifts we bring...
...we make music. Goose-pimpling music.
And I suppose we just can't help it: we smile.