Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why we are here

Day starts at Joe’s again.  Then to the church. Danielle and Rochone shortly thereafter.  As we approach lunch hour, Amanda and I go to Barney Greengrass to drop off tickets, promote the concerts.  Amanda has visited every door man in a four block quadrant. They nod as we walk by.  Doing everythig we can to make these concerts succeed.
Steve Siegelbaum from Dos Pueblos drops in to check out the space. It looks like it would really work for their fall benefit concert with John McCutcheon.  I remind him that he was principal when my son Nate went to computer school.
RL and Dave are upstairs, examining the lights. Seems like the dimmer box might actually work after all.  RL and Dave try to explain in great detail what’s going on with the lights.  And I still don’t understand.  
RL autographs and gives me a copy of his cd along with a Dusty Withers Fan Club button. (His own mythical 1950‘s cowboy creation.)   Raised  on an Indian reservation, he had seven years trianing as a shaman.  And that stays with him.  He’s got more ideas for the lights. He and Dave have figured out that the dimmer box may not be dead afterall. 
A call from the church pulls me from a Presbytery Council meeting. Andre has not shown up for his rehearsal.  When I arrive, he’s still not there. So we call. He’s lost his wallet, has no Metro Card. So Erasmia jumps in her car and drives up to Harlem to pick him up. They come back, she starts to warm up on the piano, he limbering up his voice.  
He begins to sing An Die Musique, by Schubery.  As he moves into the song, he leaves Erasmia’s side at the piano and moves to the center of the sanctuary.  His voice is deep and rich, filled with feeling. There is this moment: As Andre is finishing the song, Erasmia is looking not at the music but him. As the song ends, she says, you’ve still got it, gets up from the piano and hugs him. Andre turn to us and says, How was that? Danielle, Amanda and I are sitting there with tears streaming. This is the moment when you remember why you are doing this. Why we are here.  When you think, At this moment, this is my life. And it is good...

On the way up the street, Danielle says that this is the first time she has been truly happy leaving work. 
                                      *  *  *

Years ago, Erasmia created the West-Park Chamber Society.  They started their rconcerts in Mc Alpin Hall and soon grew to need the sanctuary as performing space. Erasmia used the classics in strong thematic ways and pushed the boundaries of the genre. Her performances were an amazing mix of
 intelligence and passion. She was once the featured pianist along with the Society at Steinway.  She introduced me to Greg Beyer, the percussionist who collaborated with me on so many performance interpretations of scripture and special liturgical events.  She left her Chamber Society to become a mother and bramch out into other artistic pursuits including work woth children and young people, especially her creation My Music Garden.  
Here is the letter she wrote today:
My friend Andre Solomon-Glover is a charismatic, gifted baritone.

Some of you will remember Andre as the strikingly handsome, dynamic lead in Hal Prince's Broadway revival of Showboat.  Others may remember his exciting international career - singing with Leipzig Gewandhaus and Philadelphia Orchestras, or making solo appearances at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.  When I was director of West-Park Chamber Society, I had the incredible honor of performing with him Brahms' Serious Songs and Kurt Weill's German Requiem.

Younger friends may not know him or remember him.  I'm not surprised.  Eight years ago, his career was cut short by a devastating brain injury - at age 42, he suffered a massive stroke, which affected his short-term memory. 

His goals are different now.  Andre no longer lives off his singing - he lives in order to sing.

Andre is in trouble and he needs our help.  He is about to lose his home.  The Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness is hosting a recital to raise the $6,500 Andre needs in order to stay in his home.

This Sunday, June 19, at 7 pm, the final concert of "The Bridge to Restoration" series will take place at West-Park Presbyterian Church, corner of 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York.  The concert will feature Andre and some of his musical friends, including myself, violinist Ashley Horne, percussionist Gregory Beyer, pianist Jed Distler, and soprano Dana Hanchard. 

Bridges will be a big theme on Sunday - the symbolic bridge between Andre and his friends - old friends and new ones; the metaphoric and slippery bridges between prosperity and affliction; the nostalgic bridge between the past and the future; and the inspiring bridge that carries opportunities for sharing - for Andre to share his still vibrant musical gifts, and for us to share our appreciation and our monetary gifts.

Last night, as Andre and I rehearsed Schubert's poetic lied An Die Musik, I was amazed by the power, the musicianship, the communication.  Wasn't he struggling to stand just a moment ago?  And yet, his voice contains such force, such nuanced expression, and such deep, dark beauty - he was once again the Andre I remember, 42 years old, intense, alive and full of passion.

But I should not be surprised by this - one of the most profound and startling moments of my life is the image I retain of Andre in a hospital bed, in a coma.  I had put on some tapes of the Brahms songs we had performed together.  I was waiting, wondering if he would take any of it in, watching his body struggle to stay alive.  After a few moments, Andre's body revolted.  With eyes closed, still in his unconscious state, he suddenly took a deep breath, and his voice resounded fully during the last phrase leading to the climax of the last song.  For those few seconds, he was not in a hospital bed, he was on stage at Carnegie.  I was stunned.  And scared, too, of the power of the mind.

Yet last night, I felt humbled by Andre's sense of gratitude and joy.  I was moved to tears by the honesty and authenticity of his singing.  And I was in awe of his wisdom, his insights, his observations, and his generosity.  He shared a comment that struck me - "How liberating to sing without feeling like you need to impress anyone!"  He may not remember where he put his metrocard, he may not be able to learn new opera roles, he may speak or move a little slowly, but no illness will conceal his musical essence – Andre's beauty and genius are hard-wired and will touch you deeply.

Please help my friend Andre.  Please come to West-Park this Sunday - experience Andre, connect or reconnect with him.  Even if you don't know him, please consider making a donation.  You may donate by clicking here:   Or you may send a check, with Andre's name on the memo line, to West-Park Presbyterian Church, 165 West 86th Street, New York, NY.

I'm not in the habit of making these sorts of requests and I understand this may feel like an imposition to some of you - no matter how worthy Andre may be.  But I can't help but think that none of us is immune to tragic life-altering circumstances, and I can only hope that I will never need to make this sort of request again on anyone's behalf.  Regardless, the help from strangers will be at least as meaningful as the help from friends.

See you on Sunday!


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