The Alternate Universe

Today is rainy and so we have classical guitar music playing. Yesterday was rainy and I had classical harp music playing. Ambience is created when rain and classical music collide. Just look at any romantic movie where a couple kisses in the rain. Actually, the first time James ever tried to kiss me I was standing in the thundering rain in a state of trance. It’s irresistible because you've seen it in Hollywood a million times and Hollywood tells you it's the height of passion. Rain means the heavens are being emotional.

Every once in a while, when I am in a very romantical mood, I will run out in a thunderstorm and raise mine eyes to the passionate sky and get utterly soaked. Marianne Dashwood had the same problem. Unlike Marianne, after a few minutes I get really cold and then I go inside and drink something hot. Because I like being comfortable.

But anyway, back to the purpose of this blog, which is to say that I have not blogged in 2 weeks. Alas. The second week I missed because I was recuperating on a sunny sugar-sand shore from the first week which I missed because the Fine Arts Summer Academy finally caught up with me.

There was the Younger Division's incredible performance of Hallelujah Harvest, written by my genius parents, where I helped my best friend Lillian put on and take off all the lavs. Putting on a lav is rocket science. Period. Then a day underground in a super cool cave called the Cumberland Caverns (aka Bluegrass Underground) for the show Trailblazers! Then an evening in the awesome canning factory turned performance venue called the Cannery Ballroom for the jazz show Love Goes the Distance! The FASA talent is jaw-dropping. And all that music put together in 6 days. Literally.

Then we enter into the period of day-long back-to-back rehearsals with all the students and the camera crew and the tech crew (I just turned on Barber’s Adagio for Strings for added angst in the ambience of my writing ;) ) where I get very sick along with half of the FASA participants in the form of a razor blade sore throat, no voice, and (bonus point!) a pinched nerve in my back (from sitting on backless harp benches for hours and hours every day).

For three days, I drink concoctions such as colloidal silver, apple cider vinegar with fresh ginger (the equivalent of herbal whiskey…goes down like fire!), and rooibos tea. If I had two full weeks to get well, they would have worked. Unfortunately, I have two days to get well. Finally I give in to the tiredness, have my husband take me home in the middle of rehearsal, sleep away the afternoon, and when I wake up watch Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet for mental peace. Ahhh…

When I am still not better, I cave on my typical au-natural-never-take-pain-meds-or-any-type-of-chemical and get a steroid shot. The next day I am doing way better and can actually speak! Hallelujah. And that day happens to be the day where I arrive at the Grand Ole Opry House at 8am and sit in a makeup chair getting Glamour and Glitz done for a couple hours with the amazing artists at About Face; then we perform a 5-hour-long tiny-audience close-camera-shot run of Art of the Love Song (which will be released as a PBS special in March 2016) in our beautiful couture dresses that were made from scratch by the amazing Karen Hendrix Couture.

Then an hour of touch-up instead of eating supper, because supper happens to be a very delicious, moist pulled pork in…barbecue sauce (when my husband comes into the dressing room with his plate wobbling dangerously in his hand there is a generally hysterical screaming moment from all 4 girls in their beautiful ballgowns, so he coincidentally leaves the room). Then a quick picture-taking in the Opry hall with my good friend and exceptional photographer Traci Shepherd (she took all these pictures!) before I run, petticoat and heels and all, to the stage because it is 7:30pm and time to begin!

So we perform the live showing of Art of the Love Song, this time with a full audience. And boy, it's amazing! Music is speaking a message, and having hundreds of people to speak it to creates an intense synergy in the air. It floods you with energy, gives you purpose in the performance. You are playing a sweeping kaleidoscope of colors and truths with your family and the orchestra and the choir. It becomes a dance, sweeps you up in the moment, takes over and makes you ascend above your fear of messing up or forgetting your part.

And then Art of the Love Song ends and Songs of Innocence & Experience begins. A quick turn-around, our ballgowns change into orchestra black, and the Fine Arts Summer Academy students take over the stage. What talent!

From my seat behind the harp in the orchestra or from backstage, I am awed over and over again by the stellar vocalists and instrumentalists painting their own kaleidoscope on one of the most influential and famous stages in the world.

The next morning, when I wake up, it’s like I’ve been in a time warp. I realize that the whole thing was only 12 days. And yet there are so many memories, so much inspiration…it feels like an alternate universe that keeps on echoing through eternity, and every year I dip into it.

In fact, it's a little bit like I've been to Narnia, with its terrible battles and transcendent beauty…and then I tumble back through the mysterious wardrobe and into reality. Life goes on like normal, but I never forget the magic.