For me, however, it doesn't accomplish anything of the sort! All it makes me want to do is tear my eyes out, and then go after the idiots standing in the risers behind me, or maybe that one audience member who seems to suffer from strategic coughing. Or! Maybe the one who brought their sobbing child who is now proceeding to ruin our recording by whining through the quietest of songs. Or, maybe whoever had the brilliant idea, forty-five years ago, to do an event like this.
The Dress Rehearsal:
I don't know quite when it happened, but sometime during those four and a half decades, someone decided it would be very moving to have a "candle lighting" segment to the concert. Over the years, we've moved from real candles (too dangerous) to battery operated ones (less mess, less litigation).
While a true candle may pose the threat of fire, I suspect that the flame is at least far more reliable. My candle died.
Because long dresses are not something most of us are accustomed to moving elegantly in, I like having more than one dress rehearsal to practice the fine art of not tripping each other up. I really wished we could have had another go at things when, during the final processional on the last, most dramatic song, the girl behind me stepped on my hem and would not let up.
When that happens, everything around you seems to stop. All you can feel or think about is the fact that your dress is not coming with you. You are, essentially, on a leash, and you look like it, despite best efforts at maintaining a blank look of dumb joy ("I have eight braincells! Yaaaaay!").
Also notable: the "resolution" supposedly brought about by a confrontation during a previous rehearsal was unsatisfactory as far as I am concerned. We were told that the level of professionalism must increase, and that we should not snap at each other.
Neither of these things happened during dress rehearsal, for the idiots persisted in their chatter, and I again snapped at them to shut up. This was a dress rehearsal, for God's sake! What the hell did they intend to do, talk through the concert as well?
Yes. Yes, they did. Not as much, perhaps, but any loose chatter is completely inappropriate during a performance.
I traded my broken candle for a different one, but the effort to get a consistent light was again thwarted: it went out on the same damn song.
My candle may have given up, but I certainly was not going to, despite my knee having not yet fully healed. Attempting to hold the same refined stance while others sang gave me far too much time to contemplate the subject of stillness, and I have come to the conclusion that the human body is really meant to be in motion. If you lay in bed too long, you get bedsores. If you stand stock still at Vespers too long, you pass out. Almost as if to prove my point, a soprano locked her knees and fainted.
Still they chattered on. Because I am incapable of talk during a concert, I instead thwacked (fruitlessly) at them with my sheet of paper containing the five verses I never knew "O Come Emmanuel" had.
I was given a new lightbulb for my candle, and the light remained bright throughout the entire candle session that the audience (hopefully) found deeply moving.
I did not find it an emotional experience. I survived the concert by thinking about just how soon I could move again, and the candle segment was no exception to this. Lighting the candles was far from a symbolic act for me: it was an excuse to shift my weight and relieve the painful pressure on my heels!
Unfortunately, that relief was a short-lived thing, for the pinpoint of light clearly indicated any change of balance you made. It was at this time that I amused myself by deciding that in the dark distance, it appeared to me that all choir members were holding miniature, glowing ice cream cones.
Not much to note other than we gave up on resolving the Chatterbox Problem between students and sought out the conductor instead.
By this point, the concerts were merely a haze of discomfort through which I passed by attempting to identify the gender of patrons who were dimly lit in the stage light backwash. Holding up my head was taking quite a bit of effort ... I was quite sure that my neck was going to explode, but I also felt that passing out in front of so many people would be more embarrassing than relaxing, so I held on.
I felt a bit lonely when there was no one to greet or congratulate me after it was all over.
Other people cried when they realized it was their last Vespers ever, but I don't think I'm going to look back in the years to come and miss it. I may come back as an audience member if they name it something like, "Vespers: 'A Two-Hour Treatise on the Word Allelujah,' or, 'How Many Different Ways We can Say the Same Thing.'"