Transcript: Ballard Opera Man’s Socially Distanced Serenades
Video link: https://crosscut.com/video/new-normal/ballard-opera-mans-socially-distanced-serenades
Stephen Wall: OK.
(Ginna Wall) Does that work?
Stephen Wall: Yeah, let's walk around with it and spin.
Stephen Wall: Music expresses what conversation and normal circumstances can't express.
Stephen Wall: All right, now let me do a little bit of (humming).
Stephen Wall: Though my tail would lash, I will show compash.
Stephen Wall: Things like the arts, plays, films, operas, music we see ourself reflected in those things.
Stephen Wall: So maybe the spare belt is the way.
Stephen Wall: No, that's not gonna solve it.
(Ginna Wall) No, not tonight.
(Ginna Wall) You have to make this work so that means hold it gently.
Stephen Wall: Maybe it would just be funny if it came off.
Stephen Wall: It exists because in reality, other than experiencing it, you can't describe it.
It's beyond words.
What puts the ape in apricot?
What have they got that I haven't got?
Stephen Wall: You can say that again.
(Crowd laughing and clapping)
Stephen Wall: I am a professional opera singer here in Seattle.
I also teach other professional opera singers.
I teach about 20 lessons a week here in my home studio.
Sometimes people will do ay, ay, and the jaw is very close.
Well, if you go from (vocalizing),
Then E is gonna have to be smaller than that.
10 o'clock in the morning and 4 in the afternoon are exactly the same when you're in this room, my studio.
I was just in this musical dungeon, if you will.
That's a little dramatic.
So I took my string bass out on the patio.
I didn't wanna become a nuisance, but I had the opposite experience.
People were stopping and talking.
And bike riders going by were like, yeah!
I was like, what is this?
This is not typical.
Seattle's a little bit inward.
I said, OK, there's been a shift.
Something has changed.
While I've been inside, there's been a transformation going on all around.
My weather app, which I check before I do the concerts has an update on COVID and yesterday there were 56 new cases in King County.,
It's not over.
Not a close neighbor, but is close by, who I had never met before, and she called back. She goes, “Aren't you gonna sing?”
I was like, “OK, I guess.”
And I look outside about 4:45 and there are people in the street.
That's kind of a commitment I've made that this concert that I'm doing on a daily basis is, at least for now, part of what we'll remember as normal.
Normal's nice, especially when you're in a situation where not a whole lot is normal.
To all the health care and hospital workers: How many health care and hospital workers here?
One, two. (People clapping and cheering)
They're the real heroes.
My wife is the head of lactation services at the University of Washington Hospital.
Of course I was concerned about that, and it was one of these situations where I could be concerned. But we were so busy trying to get our two adult children to calm down about it that you almost didn't have time to experience it for yourself because they love their mother.
And what she said was, “If you're going into the center of the danger, be sure you're also going into the center of knowledge, research, information and expert help.”
Which she is.
So it's dangerous, but she's a warrior woman.
She's heroic with this.
You're married to someone for 40 years, and you think you
know all about them. Then you see something new and amazing; it's kinda cool.
(Dramatic orchestra music)
(Singing in foreign language)
I think that it's refreshing to not have to go through this huge cathartic process of, “Hi, how are you?” and then I see them the next day. “Hi, how are you, what are you doing?”
And then eventually we build up this sense that we're safe communicating.
But when it's music, it's just you're right out there — the idea that I'm willing to just show you all of myself.
Here it is, raw, unfiltered.
I'm in your face.
And all ages, from these young kids on bikes, young children, 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, sitting with their parents.
Right on through to these two older gentlemen, who arrive in their car, and they set up lawn chairs right out in the street.
And I'm grateful that I have something particular to offer.
What I hope it is is I hope that if I'm doing something in particular, it'll make people think about, well, what can I do?
Stephen Wall: Hi!
Stephen Wall: Oh, bye, hi and bye.
Can you leave those on the bottom step and I'll come get them?
Stephen Wall: Thank you.
(Woman) It's a lovely bouquet!
(Woman) Oh, so nice!
Stephen Wall: I'm old enough that my parents talked a lot about World War II.
Scrap drives, rubber drives, blackout, victory gardens and I frankly of late have been dubious as to whether America could ever pull together like that again.
And I'm more than happy to be proven wrong.
This is another phenomenon.
We just lose it and we don't care.
(Singing in Italian)
Look, I'm scared as the next guy.
I wake up every night, 2:30, 3 o'clock, and I'm awake for a while.
But this concerts that we're doing have created a balance for that concern.
The inequities of life, the catastrophic events, you don't need to have that dramatized. It's out there.
So once you sorta get it, you can say, OK, I get it.
But if you start to obsess about that every minute, you can find yourself in a very bad place.
You have to find good things that you can latch on to and that give you the strength to endure the things that seem unfair.
The song I do at the end of the show, “Nessun dorma,” he's looking down into Peking, and its confusion and turmoil and indecision and at dawn, when the big reveal takes place, “vincerò, I will win.”
(Singing in Italian)
And maybe we all need to be walking around saying, “all'alba vincerò at the morning we'll win.”
Maybe it'll make us make the choices like staying sequestered, staying socially distant.
And if that's hard, maybe something within something artistic we experience will just give us one more iota of fortitude to do those things.
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