This afternoon the man and I are going to see the Soweto Gospel Choir. The tickets are an early Christmas gift from my cousin. And yesterday afternoon, my own choir performed the first of our three Christmas concerts, this one in Queens. It was a standing room only crowd, with familiar faces and an average age somewhere above seventy, despite the little kids on the front row who talked non stop throughout the performance, and fell asleep in the final medley of carols. I felt so tired afterward. My whole body ached, and I climbed into bed by seven with my Kindle and settled down to binge watch the second season of Ozark on Netflix.
That series is dark. It starts out like a cross between Breaking Bad and Weeds, but there is something unrelieved about it, which makes me realize that both Breaking Bad and Weeds gave us a little room to breathe, a few characters we could relax with, sympathize with, root for. Ozark, not so much. The actors are all first rate—Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Skylar Gaertner—but everything just keeps happening to them, they're always reacting to horrific circumstances, and in the end it just feels like endlessly retreading a played out plot line, and no one, with the exception of the son, Jonah, truly evolves. The story is bleak and suspenseful, but somehow not bold. When I got to the last episode of season two, I felt relieved that it was over. I hear there will be a third season, but I might not watch.
The concert was fantastic. At one point the group did a tribute to Nelson Mandela, with haunting melodies and weaving harmonies, their voices soaring, and I looked over at my husband and saw the line of a tear glistening on his cheek and he smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder and I leaned my head back against his arm and thought how I will never take for granted the sheer joy and wonder of being able to share something so transcendent with my love.
The night was one wonderful arrangement after another, but my other favorite piece was their blow-the-roof-off rendition of "Amazing Grace." I can't even find the words to do it justice. The night was freezing cold, the walk to the concert hall across campus was long and winding, the house was packed and the man and I felt like sardines in seats a little too narrow for our girth, but it was all so worth it. Every person sang solo on one or more songs, and every single one of them could have been Aretha Franklin or Barry White if they'd been born in a different time and place. But they were born in Soweto, South Africa, and they came together for this magnificent chorus, and I was grateful to be in their audience, to feel vibrating through every cell their extraordinary sound.