I love music. I love to sing, although usually my audience is limited to the interior of the car or shower. My mother used to say she’d find me as a wee babe in my crib singing to my hands. Music is soothing and powerful, and I am often captivated by poignant lyrics, harmonies and counterpoint. Consistently among my favorite artists are The Indigo Girls. www.indigogirls.com/home A highlight this past week was a rare opportunity to see them perform in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall to the accompaniment of the Seattle Symphony.
“Don’t be intimidated by the orchestral hall, y’all,” quipped Emily Saliers soon into their two hour performance. I’ve seen the Indigo Girls perform several times and this setting starkly contrasted with the outdoor piers and parks with folding chairs where their music fills the open air and is carried on breezes outward and upward. Even the audience seemed a bit cautious—not knowing whether to stand in the isles and dance or sit reverently in our seats. We were in the presence of the symphony after all.
While both the audience and the starring act were clearly operating outside of their comfort zones, the gift of music given and received was nothing short of breathtaking, goose-bumpy and magnificent. Each song had been carefully crafted to include a full orchestral score, and while the melody and lyrics were familiar—the performance took on a musical depth that complimented the unique harmony of the Indigo Girls and cast a spell on the sold out house. We could have sat there enchanted all night.
Breaking free from the familiar and risk jumping into untried territory can be un-nerving for any of us. Most of my more risky endeavors have been on a fairly private scale—among close friends and family. To step out on a stage in front of thousands of folks and risk an unsupported, unenthusiastic response? To play your signature songs without the support of your band? To wonder, “what were we thinking?” as the house lights dim and it’s too late to back out? WOW. I’m humbled by that degree of confidence and conviction.
The Indigo Girls musical harmony and lyrics are nothing if not bold. Their themes include the complexities of love, peace, war, heartache and hope. Perhaps because they were as Amy Ray described, “operating in the present,” during this unique performance, the intensity and passion expressed within each musical phrase made the hairs on my arms raise and my heart swell. They weren’t just singing—they were pouring out their souls—filling everyone in the room with the best they had to offer. The energy and connectedness was palatable and powerful. As I looked around the great hall—behind me and up into the tiers—the audience was united. Singing together, sharing a moment:
“I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains, I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains. There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.”
-From Album “Indigo Girls”, Closer to Fine, 1989
I left the venue, following my fellow audience members as we each ventured back out into the world, back into our cars, back on the roads that carried us each home. Resolved to pour my soul into what I offer the world—to give my best. To be willing to risk turning a song into a symphony. To hold tightly to community. To believe that unity of purpose is possible.