Sunday, July 25, 2021

You Just Had to Be There

I simply don’t know what to say. But I will try to say it.


Tonight was the opening ceremony in our 38thInternational Summer Orff Course. I was a student in the first class in 1983, in the first graduating class in 1985 and have been teaching in it since 1990. These two weeks became an indelible part of my identity, as it was here (as well as in my annual Jazz Course) that I got to share so much of what I knew and cared about with people eager to learn. So when the course, like all other similar courses, closed with the pandemic in the summer of 2020, it meant two years would pass before it could open again (2019-2021).


As noted in these blog posts, I compensated, as did we all, with online courses and convinced myself that they were still fun and satisfying. And they were. But tonight as I stepped into the beautiful Hidden Valley space where so many miracles have come to pass, I knew that this was a moment to savor and pay closer attention to. My last live workshop was in Singapore in February 2019, so now I was about to break a 2-year fast from face-to-face, live voices raised in song, live bodies dancing together. 


And so we began.


I silently gestured the people onto the floor to make a circle and made some mimed gestures about reaching for their neighbors’ hand and then deciding against it, nervous after all those months without human hand-to-hand contact. And then… we joined hands.


We stood silently for a minute just feeling the simple beauty of a connected circle. And then I spoke:


“I have been waiting for this moment for 18 months. Dreaming of it. Longing for it. Wondering if it would ever happen again. I think we all have. And now…here we are.”


I went on to say, “I’m so glad you’re here” and burst into the old Georgia Sea Island song of the same title and they joined in and started clapping and then started swaying and then started moving around the room and then started joyfully dancing while one student took out his tenor sax, I went to the piano, another to the drums— and my, how those rafters rang with the relief of live sentient beings, playing, singing and dancing — together! Later I invoked various Ancestors, but I believe they were already out on the floor with us. 


My colleague Sofia then took over with an energetic Spanish greeting song and pulled the group, as she does, into her orbit of joy. And then James shared his charming “a little nervous” canon in the way that he does and bam! the first tuneful canon singing I’ve heard in a long time. On to the business part of the two weeks of living together as a podded vaccinated cohort and then ending with a short piece I had written, to be shared in the next post. We were back! And my oh my, didn’t that feel fine!


I know I have failed miserably here to invoke the poetry necessary to capture even a drop of full epiphany, but if there was any occasion that merited the cliché “you just had to be there,” this was it. You really just had to be there. 


And I was. 

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