09 May 2010

How Bernadette Peters saved my life, or at the very least, my evening

Being a musician, you'd think I would understand how essentially music can move people. Truth is, I'd always been a bit uncomfortable with the notion that a single song can mean so much to one person. It seemed a bit trite, hackneyed, even weak. Until tonight.

I have tried to think of a way to describe to caring people who ask how I am, how I'm "doing with all this." This week it struck me that what I've been going through is a bit (and really only a bit; I don't want to diminish a very real and significant diagnosis) like PTSD. For the first couple months after life went to hell last summer, I simply went through the motions, giving care as best I could, trying to keep it together, to make sure someone I loved (X) would come through okay. I worried only about losing him. Then I spent a few months coming to the realization that I already had. And I interviewed for a new job, and I held my breath through the holidays and I started that new job and I screwed up the courage to leave what X and I both knew had to be left and our dog died and my home and my family and my life were gone and I had surgery and I was sick and I recovered. And last night I went out for an evening with a good friend, not on a date—though in another time or circumstance it might have been—and I sat down to enjoy the show and looked down the row and there was X arriving, not alone. And—melodramatic as this may seem to those of you snug in your ordered existences—life seemed unrepentantly cruel. And then Ms. Peters came out to wild applause and laughter and exclamations of "let me entertain you." Then it was just a piano, and a single spotlight, and she looked at me (out of all the hundreds of people in that packed hall) and she sang:

And I breathed.


  1. Good. Now, keep breathing. That’s the trick.

    No One is Alone redeems act 2. And people, it would appear.

    I have always found healing in Lucy Simon’s underrated Secret Garden soundtrack, especially with Mandy’s and John Cameron’s lovely voices. Especially in the spring. Especially after trauma. Try it.

    PS I invoked Ms. Peters last night, after our bus left the Ordway and passed the Excel where I saw the ads for Carol King and James Taylor, as another on a list of singers who show up on stage and open their mouths and astonish me. I am awed when iconic voices come from actual bodies.

    As for South Pacific at the Ordway… Not my favorite musical ever, but it was beautifully staged, with beautiful voices. There is Nothing Like a Dame’s effortless choreography, full of beautiful men? That got me breathing.

  2. Thank you for that Scott.
    She is a wonder.

  3. I have a couple songs that mean an enormous amount to me, and like yours they sort of appeared out of the blue at just the right moment. I'm glad this song came along when you needed it.

  4. Last night, I saw that one of my FB friends had this as her status: "Après le silence ce qui tend le plus à exprimer l'inexprimable, c'est la musique." (After silence, what tends most to express the inexpressable is music.)
    --Aldous Huxley

    That song is inexpressably lovely.

  5. And I so totally thought she was singing it to me. Guess it's because I was lucky enough to be seated next to you.

  6. I know you're writing all this to process your thoughts, but thank you just the same, for putting it into words.

  7. Erik Satie's "Gnossiennes" enabled me to grieve for my mother like no one or nothing else could. It sounds like Bernadette was your beacon.


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