Room on the Stage

at 11:35 PM

My husband Damien and I just attended a huge party in Felton. This annual event always has an open mic, and Damien and I were hoping for a shot at the stage. He's a gifted guitarist and I'm a decent singer. At home we entertain ourselves for hours, and we were ready to take our act public.

The party was hopping! We could barely get through the back door. When we did reach the stage, it was clear that we were outclassed. The guitarist was a virtuoso. The singer was a star. Her voice -- buttery, then salty, then buttery again -- slid up and down her three-octave range. Gail owned the room.

I abandoned the idea of performing that night and just enjoyed the show, though I felt wistful when Gail performed songs I sing. I noticed her interpretive choices-little melody shifts, a note she held-hungry to try them myself.

Then the professionals took a break. People left the dance floor for birthday cake and conversation. And Damien took the stage, smiling into my eyes. He called me up.  I felt a little wobbly in the knees, but I joined him.

Soon we had a crowd -- of about seven. An older man was harmonizing with me, so I dragged him up to share my mic. His lady friend beamed at him and danced to his song. Moved, he said, "I've never done that before. It felt so good. Thank you."

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Later, the "real" singer came back for a last set and I sang backup. It was like being strapped to a rocket; her voice was so powerful. She praised me generously and invited me to sing solo, just as Damien and I had encouraged our friend. And it hit me: somewhere, a more accomplished singer than Gail is performing, but thank goodness Gail hasn't silenced herself because of it.

I don't consider myself a real singer, which, ironically, is why I dared to perform in front of a sizeable crowd. But I am a writer, previously blocked, who's working on my novel again because I experienced the grace of knowing that there's plenty of room on the stage for everyone.

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With a Perspective, I'm Hannah Jones.

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