Sunday Scribbling-Goosebumps

A high B-flat~the one two octaves above middle C, cutting through the overcast sky on a grey day in Washington, DC. Seventy five high school students, and 10 adults, standing shoulder to shoulder, each one holding tightly to a small portion of the gigantic American flag blanketed in front of them. The last verse of the Star Spangled Banner~"the land of the free"~the held note on the word free, and one soprano lifts her voice above all others, bravely jumping the octave and landing squarely on that high B-flat, which soars like an eagle in flight. Recalling it now, 15 years later, my arms are covered in goosebumps. I love musical goosebump moments, those instants when the music, the performer, the atmosphere, all come together and create a moment of such power and beauty that a shiver runs down your spine, and your flesh prickles with delight. I've been lucky enough to hear quite a few in my years as a musician. Often, it's not just the music itself, or even the performer, but the circumstances that lend the magic to the moment, setting the goosebumps to rise. On that choir trip to Washington, we visited Fort McHenry, where they unfolded the largest American flag in existence, allowing us to stand outside holding this massive piece of cloth which symbolized all the hopes and dreams of the American people. Singing the national anthem at that moment was thrilling enough - to hear that beautiful high note, completely unplanned, was certainly the icing on the cake. Since that day, every time I've sung the anthem, I hear that note in my head, and remember Kelly McBride, the young girl who sang it. My emotional involvement with the high school students adds to my enjoyment of their performances, and increases the opportunity for goosebump moments. But I also have them listening to Measure for Measure, my husband's men's choir. Last winter, eighty five men, the last verse of Franz Biebl's Ave Maria, the funeral of the groups beloved founder and director~a huge goosebump moment. And when I was playing regularly with Classical Bells, I had a few such moments ~ a bell festival in 2000, our solo piece, Debussy's Arabesque, watching the festival director (who was French) listen to the flowing arpeggios with his head back, eyes closed and a wonderfully satisfied smile on his lips~sent shivers down my spine. Playing music, listening to music, creating music, is a natural high for me. It stimulates some nerve center in my brain that fills me with delight and deep satisfaction. As a musician, one of my goals is always to have the listener experience one of those thrilling moments when the music touches them deeply enough to cause a physical reaction~ that little frisson of pleasure you feel down your spine or in the pit of your stomach. Last spring, our final concert at school, a fabulous arrangement of How Can I Keep from Singing, my husband hugs me afterward and says, "Wow, I can't believe how well you played that - it gave me goosebumps!" for more goosebump moments, go here