We were with Mr. David Awonuga, our music instructor, going over Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s The Prayer in preparation for a performance.
I was struggling with pronouncing the Italian words right while Vivian, the soprano I was dueting with, had nailed the song down to salvera. (Salvera is the last word in the piece to be sung like Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love youuuuu’).
“Can you guys go over the bridge again?”
He played the interlude, we sang but hadn’t gotten halfway through when he stopped us.
“You guys have it all wrong!” he said, holding his head between his hands.
“I pronounced simbolo di pace wrong didn’t I? I’m sorry”
“I’m not talking about the words,” He said, dropping his violin on the floor. “Yinka, your pronounciation was flawless. Vivian, I liked how you crescendoed.” He placed a hand on my shoulder and looked into the windows of my soul.
“Yinka, my problem is you. Although you sang the notes just right; I mean your voice is angelic, everybody knows that, you didn’t sing the music right!”
I looked at him like he was bonkers. Hadn’t he just said I sang the notes right? What was music if not a series of ordered notes?
“Sing the piece again”
I held the score in my sweaty palms and sang the bridge (in my fear-laced voice) taking extra care to crescendo like Vivian.
He shook his head vigorously when I was done.
“That was terrible.”
“But I CRESCENDOED!” I retorted.
“BUT YOU DIDN’T EXPRESS YOURSELF! All I heard was a robot making a series of sounds”
I stared at him mouth agape but it didn’t deter him.
“Anything can produce sound but not everything can make music. For it to be truly musical, it must evoke emotion. Face it Yinka, you didn’t make your listeners feel anything”
“Vivian and I of course!”
I burst into laughter.
“You think I’m joking?”
With one look at his face, my laughter died a natural death.
I sang the bridge again.
“That was better. All the while you sang, I felt something but not the ‘something’ I was supposed to feel.” He said, stroking his chin as if deep in thought.
Vivian gave me her you-are-on-your-own-with-the-music-weirdo smile and then continued pounding away at her Blackberry.
“While you sang, I could feel fear coming out of your pores. What are you afraid of?”
“Nothing,” I said, lying to myself.
“That’s not true. You’re afraid I’ll scrap the song and replace it with something from the fifth century,” He said, laughing.
Behind his back, those of us in the choir joked that Mr. David was a caveman who liked depressing music. It didn’t help his case that the choral pieces he picked for us were classics like Handel’s Canticorum Uibilo and Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. To be fair though, he assigned contemporary works like Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All a few times.
“There’s a lot to fear, I agree. The notes in the song are high since they were written for a high tenor, and you’re more of a baritone but that isn’t an excuse. I asked you to sing, not be afraid”
“As long as you let your fears dictate the way you sing and the way you live, you’re never going to get the best out of life. There are a thousand reasons to fear but there are ten thousand reasons to sing fearlessly.”
“Go over the song but, this time, don’t care what your Italian sounds like. Don’t even care that I might change the song a day to performance. Just sing from your heart. Sing even if your voice shakes, sing even if your voice breaks. Vivian join him.”
I remember that incident because of the emotion that comes with it.
I’ve been battling a nagging, biting, hydra-headed fear since I resumed what is supposed to be my final semester in the University of Ilorin.
What if a mosquito from hell sticks a pipe into my CGPA and I don’t graduate with good grades?
What if I get stuck doing a 9-5, earning minimum wage?
What if my nightly dreams never see the sun?
It’s been hard to convince myself to get out of bed most mornings because of the ‘what-if’s’. Heck! It’s hard to even remember the most basic truths of life like the fact that all things, like a house of cards, are falling in place and into grace because all is grace.
I’ve decided it comes down to two options:
Be sad and depressed and afraid about a future I can control, or
Be present in the here and now and not let fear determine the way I live because there are a thousand reasons to fear but one thousand reasons (more) to live fearlessly.