I went to a concert on Friday night. Both performers are people I know. Both have contributed their time and talent and heart to something I was working on.
The first performer, Amy Bishop, has one of the biggest hearts around. When I was organizing the recording of Stand By Me, at the shelter where I used to work, Amy was one of the first to jump in and say, I’ll stand by you! Along with the other performers who contributed to the recording, Amy gave countless hours, and days, to ensuring the piece was not only an artistic success, but also a worthwhile and inspiring event for everyone involved.
Amy Bishop has heart.
She’s also very funny and very personable. She tells jokes on herself. Gives her audience intimate little glimpses into her spirit and shares the background on songs she’s written – with humour and humility. .
During her segment of the evening, a cellphone went off. She was in the middle of a quiet, reflective song and those of us in the vicinity of the ringing cell phone were madly digging around to see if it was ours — even though I knew I’d turned my phone off before the concert, I still felt compelled to check! My girlfriend and I were sitting in the second row, centre stage so we could see Amy’s reaction as she sang this sad and plaintiff song with a cell phone ring chirpily chiming in.
Wouldn’t you know it! Her partner, who was sitting in front of us, dug around and then sheepishly dug out the guilty phone. It was Amy’s.
Amy had known it all along. But it didn’t stop her. She kept focused and before starting into her next song, laughingly confessed to the audience that the ringing offender was hers. “I have to take pills at 8pm,” her partner told me. And Amy, wanting to ensure neither of them forgot, set her alarm.
The very last song she performed was Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. As a special treat, Oscar Lopez, the main act of the evening, came and performed it with her. It was incredible. Amy’s voice is powerful — and adding Oscar’s spanish guitar and voice to the mix was pure inspiration. To hear them sing together, to watch their interaction, you would have thought they’d been friends forever.
They met two weeks ago when Amy’s producer asked Oscar if he’d come into the studio and share his talents with Amy while she recorded a Christmas CD. Oscar didn’t hesitate. He jumped at the opportunity to help out a fellow musician.
Oscar Lopez has heart.
I met Oscar Lopez many years ago when I was volunteering with an agency that worked with street teens. I had written a play with the teens and was producing a concert where they were going to present their 20 minute production as part of the show. Oscar Lopez was one of the performers who graciously volunteered their time and talents to the endeavour. Along with James Keelaghan, Oscar kept the music flowing with his amazing guitar playing and songs. He was funny, humble and inclusive. For the teens, he was an inspiration, sharing his stories of being down and out, inviting them to sing along with him, talking to them as ‘human beings’, something many of them had not experienced a lot of in their short lives.
During the course of the evening on Friday, Oscar told the crowd about his mental health issues that had landed him in hospital a while ago. He wasn’t going to hide the fact that mental health issues played a role in his life, he told us. He wasn’t going to let it drag him down.
Oscar Lopez is a gracious and caring man. He’s also high-energy and I love his music. Am in awe with how his fingers fly across the guitar strings, pulling sounds and rhythms out of the instrument like no one I’ve ever heard.
I also like the fact that he was courageous enough to stand in front of the crowd and speak of the taboo of mental health. And while I found his concert chaotic and at times discordant, his music shone. And his music is the reflection of his heart and soul. His music speaks like nothing else.
As my daughter, Alexis, wrote in a post last week entitled after she’d gone to a concert with Michael Franti and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Chocolate and Unicorns …
is there magic in the music? A rhythm that calls us to discover something beautiful within us that we wouldn’t have otherwise known?
Whatever it is…whatever power that exists in the sharing of our songs, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that it’s the only language we have that’s capable of transforming our world.
Perhaps it is that through music we know we make a difference in the world, because through music, when we allow our inner song to be heard, we connect to eachother, heart to heart.
Thank you Amy and Oscar for creating a world of harmony. Thank you for singing the songs of your heart so we could all hear our hearts calling us to see, and hear and feel and know the wonder all around.
And…. to show you what is possible when we connect through song, here is the video of Stand Be Me we created with clients and volunteers at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre.