Friday, May 21, 2010

I Dreamed "I Dreamed a Dream"

This year has seen two high profile renditions of the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables. Susan Boyle’s English Idol performance is legendary and it was a featured song on Glee this week.

Dear reader, I have to tell you these two pale in comparison to another version that I can’t seem to get out of my head…

I was a senior in high school- shy, quiet, playing trumpet or guitar (or both) in the pit for the vocal music department’s big year-end concert. You know that rush of feelings, like everything is sped-up, at the end of the school year? It was that time of year. And then on top of that I was graduating, so it was like my life was spiraling into adulthood, much faster than I or anyone could control. By a couple weeks’ time, all of the normal touchstones and routines of school life as I had known them for twelve years were about to be uprooted, lost to me.

With that on my mind, I sat in the pit during the first rehearsal, tacet for the next song. I loved the behind-the-scenes life of being a pit musician, getting to see all of the hidden work that goes into a stage production, so I relished all of the moments to just sit and observe.

I watched Jenni Luker- red-haired, porcelain-skinned, quiet, cheerleader Jenni Luker, inconspicuously appear on the edge of the stage. The elegiac opening chords began and I was transfixed siumltaneously by the sounds of that opening and the vision of Jenni standing, no, floating, she was floating in time and space. Quietly, she sang those first simple, unfamiliar phrases softly, plainly. Then the modulation and lyrics of tigers come to tear your dreams apart, equally resigned. This girl was weeping this song, not belting like a Broadway-bound diva.

And I’ve come to realize that’s the way it should be, just like Leonard Cohen says, “Love is not a victory march/ it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” As Jenni whispered her broken Hallelujah, I too was stuck in time. And that memory- of the very moment I said goodbye to high school and the very moment I was wounded with a secret crush on this girl I might have said three words to since junior high- that memory will probably be stuck in my head, hanging in the ether, until I die.

The next day I managed to stumble through telling Jenni how beautiful and affecting her song was. I really wish I could remember what she said in response. Sometimes, though, it's the telling that's the important part, not the person's response.

Two weeks later school was out and I never saw her or heard about her again.

Since then, I’ve heard a handful of recordings, seen the song performed live by a traveling company, heard Ms. Boyle and Rachel Berry on Glee sing it for all they were worth, but not one of them, as technically flawless and rapturous as they may have been, not one of those performances felt the way it did back then. I keep searching.

Sometimes I wonder if she really ever existed.

I wonder if that whole performance is a beautiful story that my head created or that God placed in there for me.


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Cara said...

Love this post. And that song.


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