How do you get to Carnegie Hall? No, the answer to the old joke is not “Practice, practice, practice.” The answer does involve practice (a lot), but also money, “just do it”, and Bill Gates.
Let me explain. Last summer, the community chorus I am affiliated with got an invitation from a local music director to join his chorus at Carnegie Hall. I know — everyone (including me) has the impression that there must be an elaborate multi-level audition process to reach the lofty heights of Carnegie Hall. I’m sure there is for most Carnegie concerts, but in this case, the main entrance requirement is writing checks to the impressario company which organizes these concerts.
The amount of the checks was breathtaking enough that I had a considerable inner dialogue between Ms. Spendthrift and Ms. Thrift. I also had just a couple days to decide. This is where the “just do it” came in. I am still in pretty good shape, but I am acutely aware that the Parkinson’s symptoms are moving along in their inevitable downward direction. Better to spend the money now than regret it later. Carpe Diem and all that.
My biggest concern was not the singing (difficult as that was), but the….standing. The piece we were singing was a half-hour long and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to stand for that long without bobbling or stooping. This is where Bill Gates comes in. Bill Gates disclosed a couple years ago that he has Parkinson’s. About the time I had to make a decision about going to Carnegie, I saw a photo of Bill Gates – he was at a conference in Asia. I thought, “If Bill Gates can handle a flight and conference in Asia, I can handle Carnegie.” (Of course, Bill Gates probably didn’t fly coach.)
I started rehearsing in August, and nearly all my rehearsing was on my own. As my posture had more bad days than good days, I kept wondering how I was going to stand on stage. But I kept reminding myself of Bill Gates. And it turned out I had an unexpected source of energy. One of the invited choirs was a local high school choir, just crackling with energy, who comprised perhaps 100 voices out of the roughly 120-voice chorus. After much fund raising and rehearsals, they knew the complex piece well. I was so impressed by their energy and their disciplined response to the conductor.
When the concert finally occurred, incredibly, my back was just fine and I think I was standing pretty straight. Oh yes, I sounded pretty good too (I would like to think). As bonuses for this great trip and experience, I got to visit with my sister, and with my fellow Parkie blogger, Bruce Ballard.