“Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all.” Mark Twain
We try to uphold our high standards, but occasionally all we can do is get through. Whether it’s a concert or a rehearsal or an event of some sort we had planned for thoroughly and everything would have gone wonderfully, if only Life hadn’t intervened. Those are the times when “good enough” is good enough. But do we beat ourselves up over not being perfect when circumstances beyond our control occur? Do we complain or throw accusations at others? Do we quit, discouraged because we had to deal with something we hadn’t planned and needed to dig deep to make it work?
Last week’s story from ChoralNetter Shanna* about her under-rehearsed (because of an outbreak of illness and absences) community chorus and their winter concert is a perfect example of what I mean. Shanna initially contacted me because she wanted suggestions on how to phrase her excuse to their audience before the concert began. She wanted to explain why they wouldn’t be as good as usual. I counseled NOT to say anything and let the concert play out. It turned out fine, perhaps not excellent, but good enough. If she had said something, especially in front of her chorus, who’s to say what would have happened? Why did it turn out fine? I have my theories which I have shared with Shanna.
Shanna’s chorus must have had excellent preparation prior to their absentee issues. I asked her specific questions. She shared they had tackled the more difficult sections of two larger works as rehearsals began in the fall; she believes that is what saved their concert. As well, her singers must have understood the need to be especially “in the moment” and not take anything for granted during the performance. In other words, she set her chorus up for success by how she structured when material would be learned. And her chorus came through by paying attention.
If we are expected to come through no matter what, we can set ourselves up for success. We can have understudies and covers for solos. We can tackle the difficult bits first. We can encourage practice between rehearsals. We can have several alternative pieces, rehearsed and at the ready, in the event of a cold and flu outbreak. We can model healthy vocal habits and good health hygiene. And then, we can let it go and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
Over a decade ago, my family was to attend the inaugural concert of an outdoor performing facility on July Fourth. My spouse was on the board of the professional orchestra who would be playing and we all looked forward to the event, including fireworks, that evening. During the morning, we attended the local Fourth of July parade and one of our sons marched in the band. We visited with friends, had some ice cream and headed home about 2 pm. Around that time, my spouse decided to tell me something he’d been meaning to tell me for WEEKS; the concert was also a potluck for the orchestra and wanted to know what we were bringing.
I screamed and then became quiet; I had four hours to pull something together. I realized I had some frozen cookie dough in the freezer leftover from a youth symphony fundraiser, and baked every bit. I actually like to bake from scratch so this was not what I usually do, but people liked the cookies. In fact, they LOVED THEM. I was asked over and over for the recipe, so much so, it made me uncomfortable. I kept saying I “made them with love” and that’s why they were so good. My spouse asked me what I meant by that. I told him to hush and would explain later. Ever since, our family says we “made it with love” when we pull something off we don’t expect to or we have to fudge a bit to make something work. We know what we mean but others are confused, which suits us just fine. I also always have frozen cookie dough in my freezer.