Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Magic, indeed.

My friend Lori Ecker was the headliner in "Lori Ecker's Holiday Magic" last night, and she did a wonderful job presenting a variety of holiday/inspirational music that delighted the ear and touched the heart.

The show took place at the Indianapolis Liederkranz, where I'd never been before. It is a kind of social club/arts organization founded in the 1800s by Germans who started a men's choir. (A ladies' choir was added in the late 1900s.) In keeping with the heritage of the place, there was lots of German food on hand, as well as many Teutonic peoples in the audience.

One such Teutonic person was one of Lori's special guests, a striking woman of a certain age named Anne LaPorte. She took the stage in a black dress with bright red sash and introduced the song she was about to sing, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet. The way she sang, slowly and sweetly and duskily and, at first, in German, communicated the Christmas carol in a different, somehow more meaningful way:
Ihr Kinderlein, kommet,
O kommet doch all!
Zur Krippe her kommet
In Bethlehems Stall.
Und seht was in dieser
Hochheiligen Nacht
Der Vater in Himmel
Für Freude uns macht.
And then she sang the first verse in English:
O come, little children,
O come, one and all,
O come to the manger
In Bethlehem's stall.
And see what our Father
On this holy night,
Has sent us from Heaven
For our pure delight.
And then, something happened. Something which, before I witnessed it, I would have said was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a performer: she forgot the words.

She had continued into the third verse in English. But after a few words, Anne LaPorte was silent. A couple beats later, she said, "What." Not a question, really, but rather a command, as if to say, "What. Words, come back to me." Only they didn't come back. 

The pianist trailed off elegantly, and Anne LaPorte admitted she'd forgotten the words. A few seconds of silence seemed like a lifetime.

But what happened next truly astonished me. 

I don't know if it was the fact that she was on her home stage among friends, or if German camaraderie has magical powers, or if it was a Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus miracle, or what. People started clapping, and someone in the back shouted "Sing it in German!" and then people clapped even more, and she did. And then she went right back into the verse she'd started in English, and all the words were there.

It was a wonderful rendition of the song, heartfelt and lovely, full of meaning and grace.

The weird thing is, I'm not sure it would have been as great if she hadn't forgotten the words. If she'd been perfect all the way through, it would have been a nice song. Perfectly...nice. But our shared experience of imperfection, support, grace, and celebration made it something even bigger.

Not to turn this into a sermon or anything, but I really think (and desperately hope) that our failings -- or, rather, the ways we support each other through them -- are our best opportunities to show the best of who we really are. 

May we not simply forgive each other's failings but, indeed, celebrate each other through them, in spite of them -- because of them! -- this holiday season and throughout the year.


Ket said...

Well said, Mr. Semester. Well said.

Lisa said...

This a beautiful reminder of what makes us all human. Thank you, Scott.

Robby said...

As card-carying Indianapolis Liederkranz member, I can tell you that Anne LaPorte *often* forgets the words. I think she enjoys being with her friends more than repeating what's been sung before. That's a lesson we can all cherish.

Scott S. Semester said...

LOL, Robby, that's AWESOME! She seems like a real dame, a hell of a woman.