1994. I sang in the chorus in the premiere of Kay Gardner’s seminal work, Ouroboros: Seasons of Life. This is still one of the most memorable experiences of my performance life. The rehearsals were held at the IU music school, which I hadn’t set foot in since leaving 7 years before. The healing power of the music and my sister singers helped me release the bitterness of the past and embrace the present.
We worked with the intensely talented Cathy Roma of Cincinnatti’s Anna Crusis Women’s Choir. None of the singers were auditioned, and the music was quite challenging, so Cathy pulled off a minor miracle by pulling us all up to performance grade in under four days.
Since the performance was going to be recorded, and it was a classical oratorio, the audience (packed to the gills in the Indiana University Auditorium) was asked not to clap. By the second movement, they were desperate to give back some of the energy they were receiving. Some began to make the ASL sign for applause. By the third movement, each pause in music brought a sussurrus of thousands of hands waving in the air, a shimmering field in our vision.
Kay’s piece ended with every singer crooning a comforting song from her childhood. I choose Poor Robin Is Dead, an old Irish Pagan children’s song of death and resurrection that’s a family tradition handed down through my (namesake) grandfather. The overall effect of the hundred-odd whispered songs is unlike anything I’ve heard in music—unforgettable.
The entire production was created and executed by women, down to the stagehands. I’d never experienced such a positive, can-do, committed sisterhood and was my introduction to the power of women’s mysteries. I was intensely proud of our achievement and became attuned to the different energies of same-gender and mixed-gender settings (all of which are good!).