Straddling two musical worlds is a delicate task. How does one move gracefully between situations where, in one moment, the musician is expected be the fearless, impervious leader who gives instruction and “takes no prisoners,” and in another, the vulnerable singer alone at the piano, bringing pieces of herself to light? After all, my singers have enough difficulty comprehending seeing me at the gym or in the grocery store (yes, we do that, too!) let alone being let into a world in which they can see I’ve experienced trials, loss… even joy… just like them.
I suppose the answer is simple. It works because truly great conducting comes from a place of vulnerability, great leadership comes from a place of empathy… and great songwriting comes from a place that can express the personal while still taking no prisoners.
On Sunday I will present a solo acoustic singer-songwriter concert that encompasses many emotions. Often through the lens of nature and/or the desert, the songs are expressions of many things- strength, self-reliance, friendship, love, loss, inner journeys. Sometimes the emotions expressed are easy to face: joy, trust, faith. But I also have no qualms about facing the darkness head on to get to a place of strength. There are acknowledgements of the indomitable, the vulnerable, the broken. Moments in which we ask those gone too soon to teach us that we are wasting time. Moments where we learn the formational value of cataclysmic events from the desert. Moments of simply enjoying a desert moonrise with friends. Moments where we reach out to someone else to say, “I’ve been down this road. Here, take the next step.”
These songs have been and continue to be my teachers, my epiphanies, my answers, my spirit guides. The best part, however, is when any composition of mine, be it a song or a choral work, comes alive in a performance and reaches out and speaks to others. Several of the songs have done this, as has “The Waiting,” a choral work that I wrote for the Taylor Festival Choir about the slow process of healing from darkness, a topic I often broach in the songs. It touched one spectator so much that she claimed it had literally changed her life.
That’s why I never shy away from engaging darkness to come through to a place of light. That’s why I embrace and harness my own vulnerability to create music, especially if it might help just one other person. That’s why I do what I do.
Karen Marrolli presents “Songs from a Desert Sky” on Sunday, July 21 at 3pm at the Santa Fe Center for Spiritual Living (505 Camino de Los Marquez). Admission is free, donations accepted.