Before dawn, the twittering blackbird arouses my attention outside my window, alerting me to hidden life and promises of spring.
People always told me how crazy it was to sing. They spoke of the ineffectual artists, the lazy dreamer who flails against the turbulaence of life, misguided and driven by delusions of inflated ego and grandeur or the penniless choristers struggling from door-to-door and knocking out boring auditions of overused flat arias that nobody wants to hear. They told me this and more; but that’s not it at all.
The peacock is an exalted bird with its regal crown and ostentatious display of trailing feathers; but have you ever heard it sing? His whole life is wrapped up in a garish promenades. Ditto the magpie, the bluebird and the jay– add my neighbor’s pragmatic oreintal chickens with their gloriously long white feathers that drag along the muddy ground, which occassionally end up in the soup.
The nightingale is overrated, rarified and credited with an extensive repertoire, but just how many times has it sung at your window? Not so many, I suppose as it’s as notoriously shy as Greta Garbo and rarely condescends to sing for the likes of common man.
Certainly no beauty, the blackbird is underrated with a repertoire of more than twenty-six airs, from Brahms rubato to Chopinesque trills. True, he wears the undertaker’s clothes and when the world is wrapped with suffocating darkness, he bursts with Galli-Curci warbles that sparkles in the nadir hour.
And though I stood before her, the greatly admired diva, Mirella Freni, in my three-dollar Chinese shoes frayed from a year of wear, I know that my drab feathers were as banal as those of my kind friend, the midnight blackbird, but my song rivalled hers and flew unfettered into the gloomy castle chamber on wings of its own. It’s not for the singer to accept or reject. We do not know the reason of the blackbird’s song, but he sings in winter when nearly all the other birds are gone.
I know the audition was a sham, a farce, a means of milking money from aspirants, yearning for approval and acceptance from a big-time name, the endorsement of acceptance and linkage with fame; but when I left, I saw the sky, the trees, the albino mallard of Prague and the brook rushing beneath the bridge as I crossed over to the other side. I left that isolated Italian village far behind. I understood that the blackbird sings for life.
It needs no approval or auditions; it needs no gaudy feathers or fastidious make-up and coiffure and has no need for standing ovations or the audience applause because the song consumes its life.
I know that I sang well. There was no warm-up or rehearsal room available and no piano there, but music dwells within and song consumes my life.
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