On Good Friday morning, I’d re-thought how to play a few measures in “Were You There?” (Where was that idea three weeks ago when I could have burned it into my brain more securely?) Smoothing a phrase also meant depressing a radically different chord bar on the autoharp, requiring a significant alteration in button-hand choreography. This is dangerous to consider at the eleventh hour, but I was sure the piece would be better for this change.
After pencilling the changes on my score, I practiced that portion, then put the autoharp down, took a break for five minutes to sip some water and returned to the autoharp to play that portion just once. When teaching, I’ll sometimes talk with the student to give him or her some time to forget how something was played, and then see how well the playing can be recalled. Now it was my turn. After about five quick rounds of alternately playing that bit once and sipping, I got ready for church (a half-hour break), then played the edited area one last time. Got it. I hope. To be safe, I tucked the adjusted score into the autoharp case to look at before it was played. There would be no warm-up opportunity at the church, as a vigil following Thursday night’s service would still be going on.
At the church, well, so much for the “small crowd” of ten people I expected; it was more like 30+!
When the appointed time came in the service, the pain, solemnity and triumph of the hymn’s story sang through the ultratonic autoharp. I set my chair so that I would sit sideways to the congregation. This hymn tune became an experience during practice, and so it was important for everyone to focus on the music’s story, and the altar, rather than who was playing. The edits practiced earlier stuck, and the experience transmitted.
Once the piece ended, we all could have heard a pin drop on the carpet in the sanctuary (thankfully there was no applause). The priest allowed a long pause before continuing the service. I headed to the adjacent side chapel, where the autoharp case sat out of view, and where I could be away from parishioners in the pews who might attempt to offer accolades (today was not the day). I remained in the chapel until communion, joining my husband at the altar rail and returning with him to the pews.
As soon as the final blessing was given, I headed for the parish hall to sit quietly in a corner, out of view. Focusing on the day’s event still needed to prevail. Two people managed to enter my bubble, anyway, offering “beautiful” and “nice job.” I found feeble ways to acknowledge those kind folks, preferring to savor thoughts of the Cross.
Once home, I decompressed by listening to four rounds of Hylton Stewart’s setting of Psalm 23 while zesting as many lemons for an Easter pie to be baked the next day. Amidst the distractions of ordinary life, the music and powerful story of “Were You There?” lingered in my ear and soul for at least the next 24 hours. It meant a lot to be able to play this piece again. It will have to go on a concert program.