The Art/Prayer Intersection Part Four: The Spiritual Terror of Performance Art



My hands freeze and I start shaking about 30 minutes before a performance.

Last weekend this nervous reaction came as I sat quaking at the back of a room filled with my dear friends in a women’s retreat in Port Orchard. My hands felt so stiff and cold I wondered if they would be able to move across the keys.

Gail saw me trying to warm my fingers and kindly offered to hold my hands in her toasty palms. That helped. A little.

“What in the name of everything holy was I thinking when I said I’d do this?” I asked myself.

But I knew what I was thinking before. I had wanted to play because I so enjoyed choosing the music and practicing it with my trumpet/piano playing son. I enjoyed picturing in my mind how I would play, and the way I might give a gift of music to those who heard me.

And as soon as I got up there to introduce my music the blood began to move back toward my fingers.

The playing was even better. It felt like singing out what was in my heart to touch others sitting nearby.

It was the first time I had chosen my own music for an audience. It was the first time anyone had cried when they heard me play. And it was the first time people had danced to my music. 

Those firsts were worth the cold fingers.

The terror of a performance art comes wrapped in the complete exposure to an audience. Unlike writing or drawing, I cannot revise or decide mid-way through this isn’t the piece I want to share.

Sometimes, though, that terror morphs into a joy that the other art forms cannot match. I connect with people in live time in a way that transcends all else. I experience a moment when the audience members wrap their hearts around me and warm my soul.

Because of this, playing my clarinet is one of the best prayers of all.

I did not record myself. That kind of internet terror I am not ready for yet, spiritual or not. Here, instead, are others playing the two pieces I chose.

May you know that these players, too, are receiving your gift of listening even as you hear the sounds of their music.

For the sorrows of life:

For the joys:

If you’d like to hear the terror live, I’ll be playing with the Puyallup Community Band on Friday, May 15th from 7:30-9:00pm at the First Christian Church in Puyallup near the fairgrounds.

I probably won’t have the cold fingers, though, because I’ll be tucked into a crowd of others singing their hearts into their instruments. The guy with cold fingers might be the spectacular tuba soloist Andrew Rink.

Here’s his picture and a link to his bio. His music is even better. 

Andrew Rink_2015