(Continued from part 3.)
The stage was set up a differently this year in order to appear less cavernous and more bimah-like. We stood at a wide, wooden table covered with fabric, rather than at a podium, and the Ark was just a few feet behind us. Last year it was situated right against the big back curtain, which looked grand and Charlton Hestonish from the last row but also felt a little scary. As did the stage lights this morning, bright enough to waken sinners at any depth; the rabbi interrupted the second prayer to plead for some dimness.
We could have been in the middle of a solar eclipse, for all I cared; I just wanted to find the pitch. I felt like I was squeezing into too-small shoes, possible with squirming but not much fun. But after a few minutes of discomfort, I decided to ignore the scolding voice teacher in my head; this day was too important to waste on my own annoyance. I trusted the musicians would follow me and attempt rescues when appropriate.
They did. They were amazing. We all managed to meet somewhere in the middle of the correct key, and everything was just fine. Something strange did happen during the Amidah, when the guitarist played a unfamiliar intro phrase and I had no idea what note to sing. I took a deep breath and picked one from the chord, the wrong one, but at least it was appropriately low for 9AM. The resulting intervals felt odd to my ears and muscles, but really did sound OK. And I kind of enjoyed the few seconds of adventure, which I imagined was how my niece felt when she went tandem skydiving last year and plunged through the air with an experienced jumper attached to her back. The unknown is much less scary when you're not alone. The piano came in nice and loud at the second paragraph, my shoes fit once again, and we kept on praying.