High Holy Days in Wichita

Sunday, September 15, 2013

shapeimage_2-4The Holidays were very early this year, for my 19th year going to Wichita as the “rent-a-cantor” at Congregation Emanu-El. Has it really been 19 years!!!??? The weather was beautiful for Rosh Hashanah as I flew out of a deserted Newark airport on Labor Day. Because of various scheduling issues involving Tony the pianist and the local High School musical, we rehearsed, if you can call it rehearsing, a day early. I hadn’t sung much in the spring and early summer, so I had to get back to practicing in earnest after returning from Australia. My voice knows how to sing this music despite all the ups and downs of the past few years. This year I was trying to sustain some of the new approaches I had worked into the mix a year ago. My instrument and my spirit felt sluggish as I put in the hours of practice I knew I needed to get in shape. I guess things felt fine as Tony and I “rehearsed” and touched on the more complex pieces in the services. “Do we need to do that?” “No.” “What about that?” “No….” Somehow, my heart wasn’t in it, even though I have always loved coming here to sing these services.
On the day before the first service I took a drive out to the Elk River Wind Farm in the Flint Hills. The weather was hot and dry and the hour long trip was beautiful I as got farther and farther away from civilization. I was just about to wonder if I was going in the right direction when I crested a gentle rise in the road and saw the turbines in the distance. My heart leapt in my chest: “there they are!! all 105 of them, how incredibly cool!” The view changed constantly as I approached them and then turned south and then west. I kept wanting to stop and capture the geometry in a photo, even though I knew I couldn’t do the scene justice with my modest camera. I was glad my rental car had been upgraded to an SUV as I turned onto a dusty gravel road about 10 miles from my destination. I was also glad I had plenty of water with me as I turned off the engine and stepped out of the AC and into 100 degree heat. The late summer bugs were making a fantastic racket, and some cattle lowed in the distance as they started making their way over to a muddy drinking hole near where I stopped my car. The wind turbines didn’t contribute much to the sound scape as they rotated slowly in the lazy breeze, but they looked amazing against the endless grass and sky. I lingered there for quite a while until a pick-up truck drove by me and stirred up blinding and choking dust. I was really reluctant to leave, but grateful to get back into the AC, and grateful for the opportunity to see such a wonder.
Singing for Rosh Hashanah was fine. I focussed on the open and wide feeling in the back of my throat, and used the mike to compensate for the reduced amount of point and ping. My lower middle ranged seemed to be cracking less. It felt pretty stable, even while the top felt thick and sluggish. I just hoped it wasn’t too wobbly or out of tune. Tony seemed to think it sounded OK, but I just felt pretty blah. Thankfully, the time back in NJ was quiet and not too busy since the students were just arriving back on campus and it wasn’t yet time for the craziness of auditions or contract signing.
The weather for Yom Kippur was cooler, cloudy and windy. I spent some time with Marcia, and visited Buz, who perked up a bit when I said hello, but doesn’t really respond much to anyone anymore, so sad. Singing the services was hard work. I wasn’t sick, I was in as good shape as I could have been, I suppose, but the long day on Saturday was, well, long. Most folks in the Congregation said I sounded lovely as always. A few said my voice sounded more rich and burnished – what does that mean, dark, heavy, old? Yes, everyone out here is changing and getting older. I wonder how many more years we will keep doing this? Will they continue to ask me to come? Will I continue to say yes? If I don’t sing much else during the year will I be able to get back in shape once again? We shall see.

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