Since returning a week ago, I’ve found myself excitedly telling my friends all about Voices of Light, which happened just a week and a half ago. Every time I talk about it, it’s like being back in Guatemala. Ahhhhh. Minus all the yummy street food.
Of course a blog post can’t capture all the same nuance and detail, but I’ll try to bring you into the magic as best as I can for today.
For one song in the program, we included children who work in Antigua’s central park helping to put food on their families’ tables by shining shoes and selling candies. This group of about 15 children practiced and then waited (cold and I think more than a little hungry) to join us on stage. They are the voices of the future. They were a wonderful addition, and in the days following I got to give more than a few congratulatory hugs to them.
When I went out to greet them I gave them each a kiss – which, as you can see by the time we got to the older boys, caused a little fanfare. hee hee. Thank you to Emilio Bianchi of Shoe Shine Kids for organizing their participation with rehearsal, attendance, and rides home.
The church of the Convent of Las Capuchinas had 200 seats set up – all full. Standing room only – full. Some crafty thinkers spilled into the choir loft up above and had perhaps the best view of the house. Add in the 20 person choir, and I’m pretty sure we had close to 300 people in attendance. And that was a Tuesday night!
They were an amazing audience, too – attentive, quiet, kind. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful group of people to sing to. The crowd was quite mixed between foreigners (expats – tourists and residents) and local families. The concert was free and open to the public, which I know made a difference for a number of young families.
None of this could have been possible without the support of the Consejo Nacional para la Proteccion de Antigua Guatemala (the protection board governing the use of all the historical buildings – which is a lot, given that Antigua is the colonial capital of the country, and the buildings are really, really old. And lovely.)
I am so pleased that with them we could offer the city of Antigua a gorgeous evening.
People stopped me on the streets in the days following to say things like, “Are you the singer? You make people SO HAPPY with your voice. Keep doing what you’re doing.” The point was to create a space for others to feel uplifted and inspired, so it’s wonderful affirmation to know that we accomplished that.
(See some of the inspiration that was left behind by audience members.)
When I’d hand the kids in the park this publicity flier to take home to their parents:
I was – every time – met with their squeals of, “But this does not LOOK LIKE YOU!” (and I had a few adults say that, too…which, after giving me the opportunity to practice just observing their reactions, just kind of made me chuckle. No, it wasn’t photoshopped. Yes, I did have professional makeup on. And an amazing photographer who happens to be the bomb in bringing out your big energy.)
When I saw the kids outside waiting to come in, and I was all dressed up in the same white dress, I had to smile when I saw their adorable little faces light up like, “whoa!”
In the end, I like to think of it as chameleon capability. Jeans and tee? Sure. Diva in a white dress? Can do.
Lisset Lopez and I met in 2011 when we came together to support a talk on the Mayan Calendar. She has an amazing ability to feel what lies beyond, and an ineffable spirit, so I asked her to paint something inspired based on the energy of the evening. I felt comforted knowing she was out there, even though most of the time I could not see or focus on her. I could feel her support, and that felt so warming.
In the weeks before the performance, I asked my pianist, Heber Morales, if he *happened* to have a choir who could sing “Glory to God” from Handel’s Messiah, since I planned on singing “Rejoice Greatly,” the aria that directly follows it. I pretty much expected him to say no. In fact, when I arrived in Guate I found out that indeed, he had a choir of 20 people who had volunteered to participate!
These members of the Union Church Community Choir in Guatemala City took their own time to rehearse, get to Antigua on a workday (a difficult feat with traffic as it is), take time out of their holiday schedules, and on top of all of it sang beautifully, adding their energy, professionalism and spirit to the evening. My heart felt so full with them on stage with me.
The fact that this choir came together is yet another symptom of a magical energy that surrounded “Voices of Light.”
When a very talented artist friend of mine said to me, “Heather, this *never* happens around here,” I couldn’t help but beam a little brighter. On a personal level, the event felt like a personal musical success – my university advisor always emphasizes how first and foremost making excellent music must be the number one priority in any musical endeavor. So I had spent months preparing my music, as you do with any recital.
But it just makes me feel even more honored and pleased that the creation resonated so wonderfully with the community that evening.
There are a lot of little magical secrets that go into aligning an event like this, to get the energy just so, and it’s so satisfying when you get to experience the fruits of it. You hope that it will happen, and you do your best to make it happen, but there’s a level of support that I’ve found you have to *open into* to experience and behold a night like this…but that’s a blog post for another day.
Heber was everything I could have wanted in a pianist. Sensitive, intuitive, responsive, intelligent, hilarious. He was so fun to work with, and that kind of energy is so important to making beautiful music. It leaves me feeling held, musically, emotionally, when I’m in the middle of letting go. Guatemala is lucky to have him!
And, speaking of piano, this gorgeous grand piano was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala. The event would not have been the same without it, and I can’t express enough gratitude for their generosity. This piano is another miracle in the series of miracles surrounding this event. We feel so fortunate to have had access to it. Thank you!
Almost everyone has expressed a great interest in experiencing the event anew – so, I did make sure that we had a video crew in place. Two fixed angle cameras and one floater. I will be very excited to share that final product with you when it becomes available. It’s always nice when the fellow artists make you feel seen – in the Avatar kind of way, when they acknowledge you for your way of being. I felt this wonderful support from the film crew.
And get this, as I’m typing this blog post, I start chatting with Lisset (the artist) on Facebook.
After the event, this was the painting she left had created:
I love it, it feels so light, so exploding with energy. So ethereal – which is really an energy that I felt – I think many people felt – that evening.
Just now she let me know she’s made some additions.
I mean…FWOOM! That’s the energy I feel with how its evolved in the last week and a half.
That “FWOOM” energy is what I felt the flyer was all about. Hands in the air, big energy on…FWOOM!
And FWOOM, it appears that was the energy we brought to the evening. Because it’s been immortalized in painting!
Seeing this at first made me pause breathing for a second…that figure is me. Or something I represent. Or something brought forward through me and the whole affair.
And there was something safer, something more removed about the first one – like, hey, we’d created this light bubble (one of the intentions of the evening), and it’s kind of safely disconnected from me.
And this second version is like, yep, hey, here we are, I AM IN THIS.
Very powerful. I love it!!
And so, I leave you with this:
YOU have something that YOU are creating. That YOU are in – that you MUST BE IN – for it to come true, for it to happen.
As you step into 2013, what is that thing that is calling you forward? How can you step into it one baby step more today? Tomorrow?
Oh and one last thing. Talking about taking one step. Here’s a great example of doing just that.
I first met Ronaldo when he was a bright, shiny high school student in the Seeds of Wisdom school – the Chuj speaking region’s very first high school, back in 2006. Ronaldo had put himself through middle school BY RADIO. His village was waterless until 2007, and it was 2 hours by foot to get to the high school, so he’d go home only on the weekends to see his family.
Ronaldo managed to get a very small scholarship that helped him go to the University del Valle in Guatemala City. This was no easy feat. When he was one of 20 students from ALL of Mexico and Guatemala selected to enjoy an English immersion experience here in the states, somebody gave him a camera.
On that trip, I got to see him here in Virginia. He admitted to me that his university time had not been easy – having the money to feed himself was not always a sure thing.
As of last month, Ronaldo graduated. Making him the first college graduate from his village nestled in the Cuchumatanes, 12 hours from Antigua. And, he graduated a semester early.
So of all the people I could have asked to be my photographer, I felt it most fitting to include Ronaldo. He is a wonderful embodiment of what happens when you take things one step at a time.
Voices of Light: Guatemala 2012 was about so much more than beautiful music – it was about potential, creation, and stepping up to listen to and honor your dreams.
So, I’ll just tickle you one more time – what is that thing that keeps nudging you at night? What is that inspiration that touches your heart?
Would now be a good time to entertain it as a reality for your life?
I say yes, yes it is.