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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hercule Poirot at the Royal Albert Hall

I cannot say that I was ever a great singer.  I would guess that, had I pursued such a career, my voice would rank in the lower echelons of the talented.  This is not to say that I have not starred in numerous productions.  Growing up, I played the lead in a musical called “Sam,” based on the story of the Good Samaritan.  I played the poor traveler who gets beaten up by robbers.  Much to the director’s ire, I insisted upon putting up quite a fight before falling on the stage.  But then again, as my the director was my mother, she knew what I was like when she cast me, right?  

Later, in my teens, I played the lead in “Psalty’s Christmas Calamity,” a children’s production.  I had to wear a life-sized songbook made out of foam, and have my hair spray-painted blue.  It was great fun to dance and sing on stage with the kids, even if the production was performed in our small church.

In college, I tried out for several music groups, and enjoyed singing with Male Chorale for three years.  The director always demanded the best from us.  Yet unlike other directors, he recognized that most of us were not music majors.  He cut us the slack to just be ourselves, even if our antics got him called up before the hierarchy more than once.  (Okay, on a regular basis).  Those Spring Break tours were special.  Heck, we practiced together every day during the week.  Each moment together was special!

The Royal Albert Hall,
as seen from across the street at
the Prince Albert Memorial.

The Royal Albert Hall was built in 1871, and forms the functional part of the Albert Memorial.  Like the latter, it was built to commemorate Prince Albert’s desire to enlighten his citizens through a cultivation of the arts.  Many important musicians and groups have performed there, from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Led Zeppelin to Adele.  Great artists such as these rely on more than just the quality of their voices.  They have to master their instruments.  They have to create songs that resonate with their audience.  They must adopt a style that defines them, one so unique that they emerge from all the other up-and-coming artists crying out for the public’s attention.  Whether I could have found something truly special within myself, I’ll never know, for I never pursued music as a career.  

It didn’t occur while we were in London, but later during our vacation, as we flipped channels one evening in our apartment at a former English Manor, we came across a Hercule Poirot mystery.  In the show, Poirot stands atop the Albert Memorial next to another man, someone who may be his helper in solving the mystery, or may be a suspect.  The two men stare down at the Royal Albert Hall as they talk.  Even thought we had left London behind, we could not help but smile as we watched them stand next to the impressive carvings, and the gold leaf-covered statue of Prince Albert.  We had stood there (albeit on the other side of that intricate brown and gold fence).  We had stared down at that concert hall, and appreciated its unique design and decoration.  

While I sing far less than I used to, I occasionally sing a special in church.  Today, as it happens, I’m singing in my mother’s church: not because I’m a great singer, but because I know that doing so will mean a lot to her.  I cannot imagine a circumstance in which I would ever be invited to sing in the Royal Albert Hall.  But that’s okay.  For no matter how glorious the venue, what matters is that I give of my best in all that I do, and that I seek to enrich the lives of others.  Ultimately, that’s what all art should be about, don’t you agree?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, and to all those who seek to make this day special for those whom they love.

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