The praise that comes from love does not make us vain, but more humble. James M. Barrie
They first met a year ago in December. They weren't sure of the outcome. There wasn't a destination, or path. Just a group of people coming together to share some time to sing and chat and learn and grow.
Saturday night, the destination became apparent. The path clear. They had come together to create a story of life. To stir our hearts in Love.
A story of life and love unfolding. Growing. Becoming visible.
And visible it did become for the over five hundred people who filled the pews of Grace Presbyterian Church. With eyes wide-open, we sat in awe, listening to the sights and sounds, feasting on the beauty of the spirit awakening as we fell In Love.
Love isn't always gentle. Life isn't always pretty. Sometimes, love is a poignant reminder that life is fragile. Life is short. Life ends. And sometimes, as in Two Bit Oper Eh? Shun, love is the story of a young girl's life ending in death on the street. Murder. The killer never found.
This story they wrote. This motely crew of performers from all walks of life -- it was a story of love so stripped bare we felt it whispering throughout the night.
There was love. A paper crane floating in the air, the name of someone who died on the street written on its wing. A prayer fluttering in the wind.
There was love. A note from a violin piercing our hearts with its plaintiff call to awaken. To stir. To open our minds and hearts. To Stop. the numbing grind of poverty pulling someone under.
The characters in the play that unfolded before our eyes on Saturday night were diverse. There was John Harris, guitar player, I wrote about him in December as part of the 12 Days of Christmas. He composed a flamenco inspired piece that was both dramatic and compelling. And Max Ciesielski who composed a haunting piano lullaby to accompany soprano Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan who asked, "Who will save the children?" When describing what having a place to practice his art means to him, Max said, "I knew I had something to say. I knew I had a voice. You showed me how to find it and you told me how to use it."
Norm Saunders, vocalist on our recording of Stand by Me , wrote the lyrics to an amazing piece, Broken Down, that composer Marcel Bergman created to showcase Norm's voice and the powerful lyrics of his song. "We gotta Stop and look around. We gotta mend the broken down."
Members of the Found Sound Orchestra, Robert Ramstead, Aubrey Miller, and Scott Chunn also contributed poetry and story as did Debbie Emmet who shared an eulogy for a client who died at Christmas. Jenn Carew folded a thousand cranes on which 166 had names of clients who had died since 2002. Eighteen of those individuals were murdered.
It was a night of beauty. Of soul touching honesty. Of breath taking humility.
It was deep. Stirring. Disturbing. Moving. Profound and through it all, Love whispered. It whispered and wept and cried out. It beat a drum. It vibrated in the air on the pluck of a violin string resonating in harmony against the powerful pull of a cello plaintively calling it to stir. Love roared and the audience lifted their heads in awe.
We were humbled.
As a fellow concert-goer said, "What is so beautiful to witness is the absolute purity of the performers from the Drop-In. In their not trying to be actors, in their not being anyone other than who they are, they are the true artists. They bring an incredible beauty to the show that leaves me breathless."
Breathless. Like Debbie Emmet during the show who gasps and chokes as the singers cry out in despair during a piece about addictions.
Breathless. Like Jenn Carew standing on six inch stiletto's, a tiny figure in black high up in the choir seats looking down at vocalist Doug McKeag trying to climb up to touch a bit of flesh. "Nobody gets hurt," he sings about prostitution. "Everybody gets paid."
In their sharing their stories with such breath-taking honesty, they awoke each of us to that which connects us; our shared experience of humanity. They stripped away our defenses and left us vulnerable to Love.
To read a review from the Calgary Herald, click here. To read some background on Onalea and the casts work in creating Two Bit Oper eh? Shun, click here.