Last night, we had our vocal ensemble concert at Agios Antonis Catholic Church in Paroikia. It was packed, people spilling out of the door into the courtyard – but I wasn’t looking, I was concentrating very hard on not looking, actually. It is a lot easier to sing for a group of 300 people in a huge dark theater when you can’t see their faces. Singing for 100 people you know and love in a very tiny whitewashed church with five rows of pews is a lot more nervewracking.
But we pulled it off. Once or twice in the last week, I have left rehearsal to run an errand or whatnot, and come back to hear the sound of the ensemble from outside of the church. It’s been my only chance to actually hear the music we sing – I get no sense of it when I am actually singing it. And oh, it was lovely. Each of these women have a unique voice, rich with character, and the combination of the seven of us is something. Just something.
After we sang the last note, when Orfeas paused in his conducting, hands in the air, then smartly wheeled around to face the audience, I finally looked up. We had done it, and there to witness it were all these beloved faces, wavering in the glowing light. I looked to each row of seats and saw nothing but smiles, to the back where the students sat cheering. We took our bow, then the audience rose to meet us. We whirled in circles, shaking hands and kissing cheeks, embracing each other with congratulations. Three months of work.
When I was a child, after a dance recital or a vocal concert, my poor mother had to put up with me sobbing my eyes out. I would always be bereft after the performance – no more rehearsals! No more classes! No fun! I was adrift, until the next one was scheduled. Now, however, as an adult, I can take pride in it. There will be more concerts, more singing with these lovely women – Orfeas has plans for concerts in the winter and early spring, before the next term.
Wednesday, before our Naoussa concert, we drove through Paros at sunset, winding through the olive groves and little farms, past chickens pecking at oranges and sheep bleating on the rocky hillsides. Out in the bay I saw a tiny island with a single white church hovering on the slate water, and in the distance, the shimmering suggestions of other islands vaguely appearing out of the sky. The white peaks of Naxos shone in the late sun. It was beautiful, it was a side of the island I had never seen. We arrived at Appollonia’s house on the hill, with the view across the bay, the horses in the field below. Appollonia was making wreaths of grapevines out on her veranda when we walked up, and I remembered a hike with my mother when I was very small, collecting grapevines for making wreaths, eating sandwiches in pita bread. Appollonia looked lovely, glowing. We went inside and started a vocal warmup, drank tea and ate chocolates, and I paused and wrote a bunch of phrases in my journal to capture the moment. Something better than a camera.
Thursday I stayed up all night, working on a little slideshow for the exhibition. I didn’t need to, I suppose, but it was the last night before the exhibition, and there were other students in the lounge and I just wanted to be with them, listening to music and working. I went home at 8.30 and slept for a bit, returning to the computers at noon and working right up to the moment of the exhibition, when I ran out and got sweets and got dressed and brought the sweets to our studio to share. I took my camera, knowing it was probably my last opportunity to get pictures of everyone before we all left, on different ships and different planes, to return to different cities across the globe. We discovered two countries together, we have all lived together for three months. It is such a beautiful thing, this living. Even beautiful when it hurts, sometimes.
The exhibition was a success. The concert, a success. I did not go home weeping afterwards, wondering what to do with myself, the way I did when I was a child. I went home and slept, fully and well, then I rose early this morning while it was still dark, and grabbed my camera and some clementines from the tree outside, and the churchbells clanged maniacally and I laughed, because I beat them to the morning, They didn’t get me this time! Then I walked through town and took a picture or two, and came here to the school, to wander the empty rooms where the paintings are still hanging, the photographs are still laid out to view. I came here to gather my things, to burn my photos to disc to bring with me, to tidy and clean and start to look ahead.
I will leave the island on Tuesday, spend a day in Athens, fly to London for a day, then to Los Angeles on Thursday. As always, as things progress, there is more to come.