I knew when starting this project that there would be times that just squeezing a Kaddish into the day would be all I could manage, and finding some way to carry out the ritual would become more important on such a day than the purpose of the ritual. Sometimes rituals are as much about the dailiness as anything else.
Today was such a day. I slept late and then hurried to get ready and leave for a double—dress rehearsal and concert—with the Fremont Symphony, which is about an hour away. The two-hour break between services is enough to take a walk or read part of the paper (my choice) and grab a bite before it’s time to change into the black and play the show. Afterward there was a reception, but I wasn’t in the mood to schmooze with patrons or eat cookies, so I came home directly—but it was still after 11 before I got home, and I got home to a dog who needed a bit of a walk, and I needed to change out of my black. It was 11:45 before I could have potentially recorded a proper Kaddish here in my home studio.
Knowing that would be the case, and not knowing whether that would be an unwelcome household disturbance, I therefore realized I’d need to squeeze it in at the concert hall. The time that I found—and remembered that I needed to do it—was about fifteen minutes before curtain. There were already enough people in the house and colleagues warming up that playing Kaddish from my seat on stage would have been too conspicuous. It would also be inappropriate—the stage before curtain is for warming up and checking tricky passages in the concert; it’s not for playing solos or showing off or conducting bereavement rituals.
I looked for a place backstage. Unfortunately, the wings were full of people talking, and there were other events in the performing center that would have been disturbed by horn-playing in the hallway. That left outside the stage door, in the parking lot, where musicians and people involved in the other event were variously arriving, taking cigarette breaks, stretching their legs, and so on. But what are you going to do? So I set my iPhone on a parking barrier, turned on the iTalk recording app, stepped back a few yards, and started playing Kaddish.
It feels a little weird to play a mournful, long, slow prayer in a parking lot outside a concert hall with actors warming up just inside, musicians strolling past, passersby smoking, and car doors slamming.
It probably feels a little weird to hear a mournful, long, slow prayer from the parking lot outside a concert hall when you’re warming up for a play, strolling into the stage door, smoking, or shutting your car door.
So if this Kaddish seems a little distracted, hurried perhaps, not fully focused on grief or lost loves, it’s because I was playing it in a parking lot outside a concert hall with actors warming up just inside, musicians strolling past, passersby smoking, and car doors slamming.