I had the treat of attending a noontime concert at an historic church in Troy where Laurel Masse, one of the founding members of Manhattan Transfer, sang acapella. It was a trumphant celebration of one human voice, and beyond that, of the power of the human voice in general.
Ms. Masse told the story of taking chello lessons, drawn first by the sound of the intrument and next by the good looks of her chello teacher. She would do her part to get to hear him play a reward, often one of Bach’s works for unaccompanied cello. She sang one of those works today.
But when she changed chello teachers, the next one was not nearly as motivating (read: handsome). As she hauled her cello home, in its big wood case, she realized that being a cellist would involve a lot of schelpping. Now, as a singer, all she has to haul are songbooks, and her makeup, of course.
Ms. Masse isn’t as young as when I first saw her opening a bill for Delaney & Bonnie & Friends at Harvard Stadium in 1970, but then again, neither am I. But Ms Masse still knows how to invoke pretty, with a bit of makeup or by leaving the stage with a smile and double curtsey that would have also looked pretty on a seven year old girl who had just done well.
Invoking pretty is something she learned to do early, and it still looks wonderful on her today. For me, though, that’s not a skill I ever learned, and I often wonder if I can ever learn it. A handful have told me that I have found it, but trusting the spell, trusting that making pretty can make magic, well, not so easy.
Beauty is potent. Even my beauty, wherever the hell it is.
I need to remember that.