There is something about a live experience — a concert, a reading, a play — that, when done correctly, vibrates you to your very core. There is an energy, a connection, with the artist that can move mountains. And when your mountain is moved…well, you can well imagine.
Through the loving generosity of family, I attended a performance of Phantom of the Opera last night. A chance to dress up, sparkle a little. A chance to elevate myself up from the everyday grind of cleaning and cooking and sitting in front of a computer screen for 8 hours a day. The lights dimmed, the orchestra swelled, and the doomed relationship between the Phantom and Christine began.
I am not necessarily an opera affectionado; I’ve seen maybe two in my life. But this encounter was more than listening to singing and dancing and orchestral surges. It was becoming a part of the interplay between actors telling a story. It was as if the Phantom and Christine and Raoul were living their sad, melodic lives just for me.
I tend to get a little choky and teary at episodes of soulful interactions. I used to be embarrassed about shedding tears, especially in public. Crybaby comes to mind…hormonal as well. But the tears I shed at live performances come from a different well — a well that has no faucet, no hot and cold handles. They just appear — slowly, silently, swiftly.
I don’t even know what the trigger is. This time it was the beautiful song Music of the Night. Sometimes it’s a sappy song like Wonderful World by the one and only Louie. Sometimes it’s the crescendo at the end of an orchestral piece, like the 1812 Overture. Sometimes it’s the words. A poetry reading, or a blog that just sends lightning bolts to the heart. I’ve cried during TV shows like Chicago Fire or endings of movies like Passion of Mind.
The triggers are always different, but the overwhelmingness is the same. It is like the meeting of souls. Someone’s words, someone’s music, someone’s painting, reaches out and strums your heartstrings like a Stradivarius. You don’t always know which way it’s coming, but you know you will always be right in its path when it comes.
I think that’s why live performances are so fascinating. So magical. When you experience what the creator wants you to experience, there is a meeting of the minds, meeting of the souls, that cannot be explained. A beautiful painting. A well-written book. A love song. An actor so perfected in his craft that you can literally see a phantom in love or a warrior before battle. You see them, you feel them. Your heart bursts with emotion with their loves and hates and the choices they have to make. Even if they’re not real.
This energy exchange crosses over into other avenues as well. There is nothing more exciting than sitting on the sidelines of a football or basketball game. The players can’t hear you or see your collection of expressions, but there is something about screaming in tandem with thousands sitting right next to you that keeps your spirit soaring.
I don’t know Cooper Grodin (the Phantom) or Ben Jacoby (Raoul) or Julia Udine (Christine). I don’t know what their favorite junk food is or if they have a mortgage payment. What I do know about them — and other artists — is the love they have for their craft. The pride they have in having honed this love into something that others can enjoy as well. And, for the brief moment we connect, them on stage or in a movie or writing that pivotal scene in their book, our hearts are seeing the same thing. It is me on the stage; it is me dancing the ballet. It is me bursting out in song or craft and showing the world what I can do.
Make an effort to see something live this summer. A band at a local bar; a poet reading from their chapbook; an orchestra in the park or a play or a rock concert. It doesn’t matter what avenue you take — just go and take a chance on connecting with someone who understands you. Who can instantly turn on your water faucets with a word, a note, a sketch. They will never know who you are, never know what your favorite food is or what you take for a headache.
But they will certainly feel your energy. And you theirs.