I hope that you all had a beautiful holiday season and New Year. I know it is very cold in Canada this winter and I wish you much coziness!
I could never have guessed one month ago, that I would be performing on the flute, singing, and co-conducting an international choir in Mumbai for New Year’s Eve, but so it was. We must come to expect the unexpected in life, particularly when in India! It was, hands down, one of the most beautiful and fun experiences of my life!
Our thirty person choir had members from all over the world including Japan, Fiji Islands, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Belarus, Russia, Singapore, Canada etc. There was a particularly large Russian contingency and I found myself to be the only native English speaker with most people not speaking English at all. Try to imagine a group of musically untrained people who cannot understand each other trying to make music together without clearly defined leadership… this was the challenge we were faced with at the beginning.
So how did the magic happen?
I have been reflecting on this and have a few insights to share. First, it was not our musical finesse that was magical. The music was decent but not extraordinary. What was beautiful was that everyone was there for the same purpose, to share their love. Everyone was willing to adapt and adjust with great flexibility and make their best effort both while rehearsing as well as in between practices so that there was harmony in the group as well as in the music.
Those who had ideas to share were listened to respectfully. Much of the time ideas were shared in Russian meaning that many of us could not understand, or in English meaning many others could not understand. So we would just do our best to follow along or get the gist of it from the bits of translation that were available. And when in doubt, we would share in the universal language of the music itself and just start singing. This everyone understood and before we knew it, the whole choir would be singing together beautifully (although not always sticking to the section we were trying to work on!).
Another piece of the magic was that people did not let their egos get involved. Nobody was trying to get noticed or be at the front. Rather than becoming jealous if one person was more musically experienced or skilled, everyone rejoiced in the fact that we had more skill as a group. Each person’s talents and gifts were recognized and utilized for the betterment of the whole and everyone did their best.
Perhaps the greatest magic was what happened when we were not singing. Small acts of kindness were the norm amongst group members and this extended beyond ethnic background, gender, or language. Whether it was taking care of our conductor’s two year old to give his mom a break, or photocopying music, or cooking specialty food from their country of origin, or buying treats for everyone, or making herbal tea for sick people, or sharing flowers – everyone engaged in countless small acts of love and sacrifice. These gestures of care were done without fanfare and often without words at all as we did not have the language to communicate. And when we could not use words we would just smile, give a hug, and sing together with even more joy.
At the end of our performance, the directors of Dharmakshetra, the centre we performed at, had tears in their eyes. What a precious teaching on unity and harmony this new year’s celebration has been. It is my hope that we can share more music with this same spirit of offering and love at Heart Space in the years to come.
With warmest wishes to you and much love,