Thursday, May 10, 2012

Breath. Les voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole

My sister and two friends and I have children who sing. Not just singing in big choirs, or singing around the house, but singing in serious, career-forming ways. For example, a soprano doing post-post-graduate training in London; a twelve-year-old boy singing solos with the Melbourne Symphony, and appearing in the Magic Flute with the Australian Opera; another young soprano doing her A-level music; another singer/actor/guitarist hoping to build a career in rock music; and my own boy, juggling his love of piano and singing with the rigors of his final year at school. I haven't spoken with my sister about this, but I bet she feels the same as my friends and I do (I've had two conversations about this in the last two days). Without wanting to come over all schmaltzy and essentialist about it, there is something both terrible and wonderful about hearing the child of your body sing. Sure, it's a similar anxiety when they do an exam, or have to speak in public, or play an instrument in public, or do an exam. Your heart is in your mouth, and you want to hold them up and stand by them as they talk, or perform, whatever it is. And I bet all parents, not just birth mothers, feel this. But when they sing, there is something ... not visceral, but perhaps aspirant, about it. Pneumatic sounds too mechanical. There is something about the vulnerability of a young person singing, drawing in their breath with all the mysterious movements of bodily organs, muscles and bones, all still growing, and moving all the tiny muscles in the face to make sounds and channel the air into music, that simply takes the breath away. There is something, perhaps, about the exchange of breath, all those years ago. That moment when the newly born body begins to breathe on its own, when the mother, if she were able, would hold her breath to wait to see if it could, if she had grown lungs and heart strong enough to hold breath on their own. IN this clip, taken last weekend at the Mt Gambier jazz festival, there is nothing particularly spiritual or soulful about their singing. But there *is* something astonishing about seeing my boy crooning away here, playing out this role, holding those notes out to the end. Mind you, I also love these five girls, and all I hear about them. And Suzie, in the green dress at the end, makes me want to weep whenever I see her sweet face singing. So perhaps I am just a big ole mess of schmaltz, no matter what I say. I wish I had been there to see them.

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