Back to Rosh Hashanah: This year it felt like the seder where (somewhat to your surprise) all the relatives get along perfectly, no one drops a dish, and the room is full of love and great food. Whatever happened last year during Minha managed to stick--I could hit those high notes without a struggle, and breath and phrasing came easily. I'm sure the revelation was in my head and not my lungs: I finally got over myself, at least for now. The experience seemed not nearly as complex as I've made it to be these past four years.
I began to warm up at 6:30AM assuming, as is usually the case, that I would sound like a frog at such as early hour. But perhaps I really sang in my sleep, rather than just dreaming I did--after a half hour I was able to make sounds fit for public consumption. On the first morning I was at the Very Big, Fancy Theater, a three-mile walk. Last year it seemed like an endless trek; now I was able enjoy a leisurely stroll, and watch with sympathetic and gleeful detachment as the city woke up and stressed out. Once again I arrived way too early, but the place was already bustling; the musicians had a sound check at 8AM. So I sat in the Green Room for awhile, feeling useless but calm as everyone ran around, and then moved to the dressing room and watched on a stage monitor as the rabbi and cantor, with gymnastic flair, re-rolled a Torah scroll. (Which seemed Just Wrong, even to my highly gadgeted self; sifrei Torah should be witnessed in person.)
And then we walked onto the stage to begin Shaharit, and as the sound technician in the back turned dials and knobs I could hear a version of my voice change slowly until it matched loud and clear to what was in my head. I felt like I was exactly where I should be. My job this time around seemed to be about digging deeper into words and sounds I knew so well in order to transmit new discoveries as I found them. I have no idea if I did, but I knew my voice was full of conviction and questions.
(To be continued.)