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Pauline Lerner

December 19, 2004 at 2:32 AM

We gave our annual Messiah sing along concert earlier this month, and it went very well. Every year, when we start to rehearse for this concert, I think, “Oh, no. Not the Messiah again. It’s so boring. So much diddle-diddle-diddle daddle-daddle-daddle to accompany the singers.” When we rehearse with the solo singers, the excitement begins to come back, and it returns with full force during the performance. It was especially true this year with the full sound of the audience singing along. We had great audience participation, and that added something special. Our conductor told us, just before the concert, that enthusiasm among the performers is communicated to the audience. This time, the enthusiasm went from the performers to the audience and also from the audience to the performers. The acoustics in the hall where we performed are so much better than the acoustics in the place we rehearse. That makes such a big difference. At rehearsals, all I can hear is a wall of sound coming from the first and second violins. In the performance hall, I could hear the other players in every section in the orchestra with complete clarity. I suppose that contributed to the enthusiasm of the performers. I know it affected me that way.

We are fortunate to have some excellent soloists sing with us. This year I was especially impressed by the soprano. She has a beautiful, full, rich voice that seems to flow effortlessly from her. I managed to talk to her before the performance. I had to tell her how excited I was listening to her. She was nursing along a cold and held her coat up tightly around her throat. I lent her a scarf, happy that I could help. We got into a long conversation. She is a lovely person. She has suffered several misfortunes in the last few years, as I have. A long time resident of the Washington, DC area, she had auditioned for the Met several times, and, in 2000, she got in. She lived partly in DC and partly in NY, dedicating herself to the wonderful opportunity in her career. Then came 9/11. NY City went into a slump. Fewer people attended performances at the Met, so the number of performances was cut back. My new friend had to do temp work to make ends meet. She has diabetes, and this spring she became quite sick and was hospitalized. While she was in the hospital, her vision deteriorated badly, and she had to have surgery on her eyes. Her vision is now seriously impaired. While all this was going on, the relationship she was in was falling apart. She moved back to the DC area, where she now lives with her family. She is planning changes in her career because of her visual impairment. She will try doing concertizing and recitals as a soloist instead of opera. In spite of all that has happened to her, she pours out such a beautiful sound from her soul. When she sang, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” she sounded like she felt reassured and comforted by the knowledge. I asked her about this after the performance, and she said that she truly feels this way. She is almost a miracle with her rich music and her equally rich giving. I got her phone number so that we can stay in touch. She loves Kathleen Battle (of course), so I will make her copies of some of Ms. Battle’s CDs, including her recording with Christopher Parkenning and “Grace.”

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