A joyful return to the stage

Today’s blog post comes from Allison Jewett, who while on medical leave from playing her piccolo in the orchestra has found a way to stay involved … by singing in our very own Houston Symphony Chorus! Continue on to read her perspective on this weekend’s concert, Opening Night: Ode to Joy, and what it’s like to be performing in a different role on stage.

Freude! After 50 minutes of brilliant music from the orchestra, the word comes from the chorus without warning.  It just couldn’t be contained any longer –  JOY! It is what makes Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony an epic and all-time favorite for so many people worldwide.  I can promise I’ll be bursting with joy from my seat for this performance, although my seat will be in a slightly different location than usual.

Instead of playing piccolo, I’ll be singing in the chorus!  For me, this is a much anticipated return to the stage of Jones Hall.  I have not played my flute or piccolo for almost a year due to a neurological condition called focal dystonia.  For some musicians, dystonia appears as a lack of control in a finger or two, making it impossible to play fluidly.  For me, dystonia affects the facial movements of my embouchure.  The cruel result is that I can barely make a sound.  Heartbreak!

So, determined to get back on stage I began searching for a new voice.  Where did I end up finding my voice?  In the highest range – surprise – I am a first soprano!  Beethoven’s Ninth is known for its über-high soprano part.  But those high-high notes are where my voice is right at home.  You see, those same notes at the upper extremity of the soprano range are right in the middle of the range on the flute.  Home! Turns out my singing voice isn’t so apart from the voice I thought I had lost.  For me those high notes don’t seem out of reach, like an extreme that is just on the edge of possible.  When I see those notes on the page my brain thinks: no problem!  Joy!  Not that singing doesn’t present me with so many challenges.  For me the difficulty lies underneath where for most is a more comfortable range.

I like to think of high notes like flying.  No matter how dark and stormy it might be on the ground, as soon as you get above the clouds the sun is sure to be shining.  There is always an altitude where the light is bright and smooth sailing is guaranteed.

Transcendence! The power of this joy comes with sharing it, and that is what Beethoven 9 is about.  It is an awesome feeling joining my voice with so many others.  We can’t wait to share our joy as we sing for you:

Alle Menschen werden Brüder…
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen…
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!…
Freude, schöner Götterfunken!

All men become brothers…
Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven’s glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory…
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!…
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity!

Hear Allison and the Houston Symphony Chorus sing during Opening Night: Ode to Joy, this Thursday at Sugar Land Baptist Church, or Friday and Saturday at Jones Hall.

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