Every time I have an incredibly busy few days, I think back to last August and my very last day at my wonderful church gig in Chicago. The church had just gotten a new pastor (because the previous one had retired and moved to Arizona), and with him a new assistant pastor. I’m not sure if all United Methodist churches do this, but our church had a Children’s Moment where all of the adorable wee ones in their Sunday best came up to the altar (oh god, I almost typed “the bimah,” this is what happens when you put a Jewish girl in a church!) and did a little activity with the assistant pastor.
(NB: So, about the whole Jewish girl in church thing. Last May when my grandma died, I went to Long Island and saw my dad’s whole family for the first time in a really long time, and they were all very perplexed by the idea that twice a week–one rehearsal and one service–I went and sang in a church. But the thing is, it was my job. For a whole year, I had the privilege of being paid to sing. It paid more than half of my rent. And you know what? I loved it. I loved the people, I loved the music, I loved the pastor–who, by the way, got such a kick out of having a Jewish soprano section leader and never once made me feel out of place or uncomfortable. Tom, one of the tenors in the church choir, once said to me, “You belong to our church!” And I really felt that way, more than I’ve ever felt that I belonged to a synagogue. I felt honored to enrich the religious lives of the people in the congregation with music, even though I wasn’t interested in participating. I’ve sung in my friend John’s church a few times during my year in Paris, and while I don’t know the people like I knew them at my church at home, the atmosphere was similarly warm and welcoming–though the pastor once gave me a set of CDs about John Calvin, in case I was interested…And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.)
I don’t know a lot of New Testament stories. A few of them stuck with me from listening to sermons and scripture every week last year, but for the most part the details escape me. Except the one that was the subject of the Children’s Moment at my last service last August, which is crystal clear in my memory: the story of Mary and Martha.
(I wonder if people are going to do serious searches for the story of Mary and Martha–Luke 10:38-42, ha, I’ve always wanted to cite a Bible verse in some weird academic part of my brain–and come across this and be like, what the deuce?!)
So basically Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha, who are sisters. And Mary sits and listens to Jesus talk while her sister Martha is, as the assistant pastor put it, BUSY BUSY BUSY BUSY BUSY. Actually, it was more like this: BUUUUUUUUUSYbusybusybusybusy. Martha complains to Jesus that Mary should help her with her chores instead of sitting and doing nothing, but Jesus says that Mary has the right idea and Martha needs to chill out and love God. (In those words, obviously.)
This is all by way of saying that since I last posted I have been BUUUUUUUUUUSYbusybusybusybusy.
On Sunday I had my “diplôme” exam audition, in which I sang six pieces in a room of people (four judges plus a bunch of random audience members, since the auditions were public) who had clearly been instructed not to react, because that would encourage the singers. I kid, but it was a very cold room. And moments before I had to go on to sing, the guy who was running things logistically backstage asked me to translate all of the titles of my pieces into French. Talk about last-minute stress! But it went fine vocally, at least, I think it did. Madame called me last night and told me the results, but the connection was bad and maybe her Italian accent was thicker than usual, because I didn’t understand half of what she said. I’m going to ask in my lesson tomorrow and I’ll give you a fuller report when I have one.
And then the last two days have been spent frantically rehearsing for our final operetta showcase this afternoon. Ooooh, it’s been rocky. Yesterday we were in the space where we’ll actually be performing. Holy cow, was it was HOT in that room, which is carpeted and has some kind of fabric on the walls, and what with the stage lighting and the spotlights and everything, it was all anyone could do to stay upright.
At a certain point, I just went out into the hallway and lay down on the tiled floor to cool down. And while I was doing that, there was the most spectacular explosion of French tempers I have ever seen or heard. Everyone was so tired, physically, mentally, vocally, and I think the heat just pushed it over the edge. Sophie made an incredibly apt comparison to Camus’ L’Étranger (I was really excited to be able to participate in this conversation, having actually read it, twice, in French), about how the murder that kicks off all of the interesting existential stuff occurs mainly because of the oppressive Algerian heat and the glaring sunlight. Elena and Mathilde told me that all of this is a very French thing, this kind of out-and-out fighting; they said, “This would never happen in the United States, would it?” No, no, it would not–and what’s more interesting is that it wouldn’t be acceptable, even in a program like this one that is designed to draw people out of their shells and make them more open onstage. (If anybody who was involved happens to find and read this, please know that I totally understand where you were coming from and I think you made some really good arguments that I do agree with, I’m just pointing out what would have happened if a similar episode had happened in the States.)
The show is at 2 PM this afternoon. By 4 it will be over and I will be free to buckle down on Mozart and Gilbert and Sullivan and my existential crisis about where I want to be next year (more on that later). Oh, but wait, I have my Châtelet audition tonight at 6 and I’m going to Spain next week for another audition. (Did I mention I’m staying in a real hotel in Valencia? Hurrah!)
(Man, that’s a weird word if you type it out enough times. The longer I live in France, the more I realize that my own language makes no sense.)