Last week, I worked on the incredible alto solo, "He was despised," with my coach at school. As usual, we worked on diction and technique, but after all that, she made me sing it while forgetting all about that and just focusing on saying something with the piece. She encouraged me to dig deep and be vulnerable with it. Naturally, this scared me to death. But I did it anyway.
He was despised and rejected of men-- a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.
He gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
Singing the words and really meaning them changed me. I had always understood the story of Jesus but I realized in that moment that I'd never personalized it. Before the events of the past year, I had felt some rejection in my life. I mean, we all have to some greater or lesser degree. But I had never endured rejection as I have this year and I had never considered it in the light of this story.
Now, I'm not asking you to believe anything. You can just take this story for whatever you take it to be. But consider a Jesus that loved and accepted everyone and yet suffered the greatest rejection of all. Handel felt and understood this; it's obvious in his setting of the text.
So I thought: all the pain of rejection that I have felt this year, all the sorrow that I waded through-- it was so tiny in comparison to what Jesus felt. It is infinitesimal and yet it felt like my entire world was shaking loose. The story suddenly came alive to me and I felt that I had something to say. Something important.
Is this not what music is for? What live performance is for? Because, of course, so many other singers can sing it "better" than me, technically or otherwise, but no one can imbue the piece with my story, my rejection, my suffering. And in that way, I can reach out to those in the audience and show them something that they have not seen before. And that, to me, is the beauty and power of my career.
So here is the great irony: I was rejected on religious grounds and yet, that experience brought me closer to Jesus and His story than I've ever felt before. I don't claim to know or understand very much when it comes to spiritual matters, but I do know that this story means something to me and I would like it to mean something to those that hear me sing about it.
I have uploaded a clip from that coaching. You can hear a recording here.