All the work and planning I’ve done will come down to just three minutes.
I’ve always known I’d be a singer. I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to sing. I’ve performed for family, friends and church ever I was 5.
When Mama first heard me sing, she had a talk with me. Lisbeth,” she said, “Your singing is a special gift. All our blessings come from God. We thank Him each day for food and a warm house to live in. But when you get a special gift from God, you must use that gift to bring glory to His Name.”
I never forgot what Mama said; even when she died and I went to live with Aunt Nettie. I miss Mama, but Aunt Nettie does her best.
Two years ago, my choir teacher told me about a scholarship at the Maynard School. They’re famous for training professional singers. There’s no way Aunt Nettie can afford to send me, so I’m auditioning for that scholarship.
I’ve practiced my song so often I can sing it in my sleep. I get just three minutes to impress the judges. I’m wearing the required white blouse and black skirt. My song has to be classical and my chorus teacher said “Habanera” from Carmen fits my range. She says when I hit the high note in the chorus, the judges will be impressed. I’ve learned the lyrics by heart. I’m as ready as I can be.
I’m standing in line, backstage. There are three people ahead of me. Are they nervous, too? I’m not allowed to talk to them, but I probably couldn’t talk. My heart feels like as if a fluttering sparrow is sitting right on top of it. Will my voice even come out; when it’s time to sing?
Oh, dear Father, please help me. You gave me this voice and I want to use it to glorify You. Please, God; I want this so much. Amen.
“Lisbeth Purcell,” they said.
I walked out and gasped. The judges are right up on the stage! I thought they’d be sitting down in the audience. I was so surprised; my mind went blank. My legs were frozen on the spot. Six pairs of eyes – all completely expressionless – were fastened on me. I forgot everything – including why I was here. My audition was the furthest thing from my mind.
Finally, one judge lifted an eyebrow and pointed at my music. Then, she gestured to the pianist. Yes, that’s it: give the music to the pianist.
As the song began, I stood straight and breathed inward; inhaling strength from my prayers; and began:
“L'amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser,
Et c'est bien in vain qu'on l'appelle
… Si je t'aime, prends garde `toi!” *
Oh, no! I ended with the words to the second verse! What can I do? I can’t stop; I’ve got to continue. Oh God; don’t let it throw me completely off…
OK, here comes the chorus. Lord, please let me hit that high note so well they’ll forget my mistake. OK; the teacher says pull the high note down from the heavens and let it fill your lungs.
“L'amour! L'amour! L'amour! L'amour!”*
I peeked quickly at the judges. I saw one of them draw her breath in quickly; right after the note. One of the men nodded his head very slightly; as if he was saying “yes.” I think those are good reactions. I hope they are. OK… almost done, now.
Oh, thank God. It’s over.
It’s so hard to stand here, waiting. It’s like my whole life has been crammed into this ball of emotions. The judges turned their faces away and they’re whispering to each other. One of them keeps pointing to the paper where he scored my song. Was my song good enough? Did they mark me down really far for my mistake? Oh, why did I make a mistake? I practiced that song so many times; I never sang the wrong verse in any of my practices. Why did I do it today?
I wish I could tell them those three minutes don’t define me. It’s not just the notes and the words and the way I held myself that went into that song. It’s my Mama’s hopes and the teacher’s efforts. It’s Aunt Nettie’s prayer and – most of all – it’s the glory of God.
*French lyrics from “La Habanera” by Bizet (an aria from the opera “Carmen”)
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