Music, Art and Love

PonteVecchio2

PonteVecchio2

Florence, Italy --

I’ve been to Florence, Italy three times in my life.  In fact, I am here in Florence at this very moment as I write.  Each time I come to Firenze, three essentials always require my attention:  Music, Art and Love.

Firenze: La Prima Volta  (The First Time)

NightDuomoPeek

NightDuomoPeek

Music: Having declared my major in music, I was just out of my freshman year of college and touring eight countries in two months with my university chamber choir, The Choraliers.  We spent four unforgettable, and absolutely life-changing days in this Renaissance city singing Latin motets in Florentine churches including Il Duomo and Santa Croce.

Art: I was constantly running after the bus, having stayed too long at the museums and in the cathedral and churches. I had just completed a semester of Art History and every time I turned a corner, there was some painting or statue that I had studied.  It was mind-blowing.

Love: I fell in love with a boy in Firenze.  He was American and was traveling on his own.  One of his friends was in our choral group, so when they arranged to meet up, I was swept off of my feet.

Firenze: La Seconda Volta

Music: Five years later, I came to Firenze to participate in an opera apprenticeship program.  This was an intense summer of study, rehearsal and performance, working with Italian and American coaches, directors and conductors.  It blew the doors of my world open yet another 2 meters at least!

San_Lorenzo_and_Medici_Chapel_source_sandstead_d2h_129

San_Lorenzo_and_Medici_Chapel_source_sandstead_d2h_129

Art: Besides practicing our given art form of opera, we lived and breathed in the art and architecture of Florence.  We also took several day trips -- one to Lucca, where we visited Puccini’s home and tomb (they are one and the same).  And we also visited Verdi’s birthplace, final home and tomb.  These piccoli viaggi indelibly shaped my perception of the creation of opera and music theatre.

Love:  I fell in love with my Italian family.  The boy I met in Florence gave me the greatest gift possible: he introduced me to this  -- my -- family with whom I have spent countless happy times over the years. The boy and I eventually journeyed on to separate paths, but still friends, we’ve each maintained harmonious branches of this extended family.

Firenze: La Terza Volta

Music: Since the last visit to Florence, I have had the good fortune to perform in two major opera houses in Italy:  The Rome Opera and Teatro Massimo (The Palermo Opera.) I have also concertized and toured all over the United States. As Soloist, I led the music for seven years in an international church; I have recorded nine solo CDs and appeared on many others.

a-room-with-a-view

a-room-with-a-view

It was wonderful to wake up this morning in Florence and realize, with my heart full of gratitude, that I have continued to live a life of music since that first trip during my early college years.

What a gift to acknowledge this!  This is major, because every day, I get so caught up in the pressures, deadlines and mechanics of this lifestyle, I do not stop to look at the big picture.  I lose the forest for the trees. Today, in taking the moment to see life’s big picture, I found the forest again.

Art:  This third and present trip is not so much about the art of Firenze, though I am completely immersed and enthralled by it.  This trip is more about a personal art -- the understanding of my own art.   It’s about where I have come from, where I am now, and where I am going.

doubledoors

doubledoors

I just mentioned where I have been in big broad strokes.  And where am I now?  In a state of preparation.  I go out to do the next round of concerts across the United States beginning this coming summer.  And I’m  getting ready to start my tenth CD. I am filled with the expectancy of a new phase, new hope, and new fulfillment.

Where am I going?  I’m in a state of transformation, to be sure.  New audiences are discovering my music, and they’re flying me to new places.  It’s what I have been asking for.

It’s a long road, though, but I’m on it for the long haul:  Grateful, and sometimes afraid too. Always hungry for it. Sometimes frustrated by the obstacles that roar up in front of me.  For example:  Just take the issue of rented sound systems alone!  Oy vey! The differential from city to city and venue to venue is hugely impacting while on tour.  The time spent setting up, checking, then checking again, hoping and praying that consistency WILL prevail is enormous and energy-draining. Nothing can ruin a concert faster than bad sound.

Also, keeping track of concerts that change in music, instrumentation, musicians and sound staff from city to city -- sometimes within 24 hours -- are filled with curve balls and pit falls. The obstacles certainly keep it interesting:  the road I am on is never dull!

And now, Love! Oh yes, Love!  On this present and third visit to Florence, I fell in love with a man.  His name is Peter Link.  And, yes, we’ve been married for fourteen and a half years and I still regularly fall for the guy.

You might perchance guess that, at times, I am no picnic.  In fact, I can be quite a handful.  We performers seem to come into this world with a lot of extra energy to spend, and we need to keep most of it on stage and find other healthy channels to express it off stage.

My friend/partner/producer/husband has seen me through some very rough patches and helps to keep me in those good channels.  He is more than patient and gentle with me.  I keep laboring on and he keeps laboring on with me.  Together, we make sure that we go through the valleys and not get mired down and stuck in them.  I am thankful to be journeying with him.

Finally, this trip to Florence has been in the planning for more than 7 years.  Every year we would say, “This is the year we go to Italy!” However, something always got in the way -- career, business, family obligations, and more.  This year, though, we were determined to get it done. However, up until about a month ago, the way was not clear.  Schedules kept changing and it was impossible to plan.  Then, quite suddenly things settled.

The clouds parted, and Music, Art and Love beckoned us ... No, they jumped up and down, waved their hands wildly at us and shouted, “Come on!  Drop everything!  Come to Italy now!”

And so we did.

JWL

JWL

PJL

PJL