The other day I heard an interview on the radio with a man who called himself ‘The Happiest Man Alive’. The reason he had adopted this title was because he had lost virtually all his family and relatives in the Holocaust, and, having survived against all the odds, was determined not to waste any of his new life in hate and acrimony, but to count his blessings. (This did not mean he had forgiven his persecutors. He had never again set foot in Germany). After the war he had married another survivor and was now a great grandfather.
Clearly he was a remarkable man who had lived a remarkable life, in a way unlikely to be imitated by any of us. But I was struck by his determination to see good in bad and had an opportunity to put it into practice later that day.
One of the good things for me pre-second lockdown was being able to sing with others from my choir. About half the singers were willing to give it a go. We rehearsed in a local cathedral church which provided enough space. Everything was done with minute attention to detail. The entry door was locked at the start. We maintained social distancing when singing, initially daunting but I came to like it, especially in the cathedral acoustic. (I imagined I was singing to a packed stadium).
Then came lockdown 2 and the end of rehearsals. In the last one we decided to do some Christmas music and were invited to dress festively, or at least to wear something red. I complied, but nothing went right for me that rainy evening. Two roads were blocked on my journey in and I had to park some distance away. I arrived at 2 minutes past the hour. The door was locked, the streets deserted. Then I realised I’d forgotten my phone, so I couldn’t contact people inside.
I hammered on that door on and off for over 25 minutes. The interior of the church was some distance from the entrance we used, the only one accessible, but even so, someone must have heard! Surely.....! But no one came. It was my own fault, which never makes things feel better. In the end there was nothing for it but to scuttle back to the car through the wet city streets, a deeply disappointed scarlet woman with antlers.
A sorry tale.... I had to work at it to find the good in the bad. But the thought of me capering through the streets was actually very funny, even though only one person was interested enough subsequently to appreciate it. And I had made an effort that evening in more ways than one, rather than staying in again. And all the other rehearsals which I attended had been special. How fortunate I was to be in a position to attend them. And I could write a blog....!
I don’t think I could have called myself ‘the happiest soprano alive’, but I know what the man was getting at.
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