How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

You study music for years and years. Practice makes possible. This photo, taken in April of 1993, is of me, my mom, and my daughter. It's under the placque by the front door of Carnegie Hall, following a performance of "Mazeppa," by P.I. Tchaikovsky in which my daughter and I sang with Princeton Pro Musica and the Opera Orchestra of New York. My mom flew in from Chicago for the performance, and she and I remained in the city that night and the next day before returning to our home in Princeton for a week's visit. That was the last time I saw my mom alive and functioning.

I had sung at Carnegie several times before, but this year, Ms. E had auditioned for and was accepted by Princeton Pro Musica, under the direction of Frances Slade, a wonderful person, friend, and musician, who still leads the group in making fabulous music. Each year, PPM collaborates with the Opera Orchestra of New York, led by the equally wonderful Eve Queller, in two concert performances of a major opera rarely mounted because of monster casts, staging, or other costs associated with a full production. One production takes place in Princeton in Alexander Hall and features a cast of young up-and-coming opera stars, which is notable for its passion and energy.

The second expands into the venerable Carnegie Hall, with a cast that includes the creme de la creme of the opera world, and while the youthful passion may not be present, the gravitas and brilliance of both the luminaries on stage and the audience were certainly sufficient to warm the cockles of this old heart. Especially when I got to share the stage with my beautiful and talented daughter and watch her comport herself so professionally, singing flawlessly in Russian, no less. And espying my mom and family and friends in the balcony, waving like a madwoman--not so professionally, but I spent decades being straight-laced and professional on stage, and I THUMB my NOSE at being a stick in the mud anymore, and well-behaved women rarely make history, anyway, so there, and it didn't stop me from getting to perform on stage at the Sydney Opera House later in life, so wotthehell.

At any rate, with the Valley Forge Military Institute marching band, the American Boy Choir, our group, the Opera Orchestra, the soloists, and various and sundry superluminaries, it was a splendid production, and our little fan club presented us with roses afterwards and got to meet some of the principals in the green room afterwards, and we got this lovely photo that I will cherish always.

The next morning, mother and I made the Red Grooms exhibit at Grand Central Station and ate the obvious at the Oyster Bar and then took the NJ Transit train down to Princeton where she visited for a week before flying back to Chicago. Two weeks later, we got a call that she had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was in the Northwestern U. hospital ICU. My sisters and I met there, and spent the next 24 hours with her, celebrating, weeping, watching the Bulls, ordering good Chicago pizza for the ICU staff, missing a Little Feat performance, where she would have been had she been conscious, saying goodbye, and finally, disconnecting the breathing machine that was the only thing keeping her alive.

A couple of years ago, after my stepfather passed away, my sisters and I were going through my mom's belongings and I came across the necklace she was wearing in the picture in front of Carnegie Hall. I hung onto it for a while, and when I noticed it was the same necklace, had the idea to make a shadow box with the necklace and the photo together and give it to my daughter for a Christmas or birthday gift. I got as far as gathering all the components, but never put it together. I gave it all to her anyway. I wonder if she has put it together. If she hasn't, maybe the next time I visit her, I will.

I miss singing at Carnegie Hall. I miss singing with my daughter. I miss my mom. I miss a lot about my life in Princeton. But I'm finding neat things to do in Austin. Like writing a blog. And singing with Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble. And other things I'll be writing about, so stay tuned...