Music at the crossroads

Last night, I attended a concert by Canadian artist and singer Loreena McKennitt, whose music I have known and loved for exactly two decades. As I took my balcony seat in the swelteringly hot Royal Circus concert hall I sighed with relief that we had made it on time. All of Brussels had seemed bent on keeping us away, throwing obstacles in our path that ranged from dense traffic over deviations due to maintenance road works to police barricades meant to stem an approaching demonstration. We even found ourselves in said demonstration a little later, walking against the current of protesters, as we were trying to reach the concert.

We were let in without much ado, and we conquered several flights of stairs all the way to the top of the concert hall. The moment we sat down, the lights were turned off and the music started. Talk about timing.

As I sat in the dark and the first familiar notes of enchantment washed over me, I was strangely moved. I realized this was my fourth McKennitt concert, and as I gathered my recollections, I came to the somewhat astonishing conclusion that every single one of them had marked a crossroads in my life, and at every junction there had been a soul connection.

At the time of my first concert (The Book of Secrets Tour), back in 1998, I was on the threshold of my adult life. I had cut my adolescent ties of attachment to my family, I had recently ended the first serious love relationship of my life, with a man I had intended to marry, I was living alone and studying literature and I had stumbled across a couple of friends who would turn out to be some of the most influential people in my life for years to come. One of them is still my dearest soul friend. We read tarot cards, talked into the night and felt we had known and loved each other for centuries. All the while, there was this beautiful Irish-Canadian singer weaving musical spells that talked of ancient times, Celts, reincarnation and the road home. We danced to Santiago in my friend’s living room. Loreena McKennitt was the soundtrack to my initiation into the magical half of life.

The second concert, in early 2007 (An Ancient Muse Tour), found me in quite a different place. I had been happily married to the love of my life for nearly two years, but I had recently stumbled into a soul connection with someone who had blown me off my feet before I so much as realized what was happening to me. As a result of that my love and I were facing a deep emotional crisis that threatened to blast our marriage apart. The music I had so long wished to share with him now seemed tinged with doubts and sadness as we both felt the other was slipping away and we didn’t know how to save what we loved.

We did pull through in the end, though, something I am still grateful for, and the lessons we learned as we went through that raw and sometimes excruciating process of honest soul-searching and reconnecting serve both of us unto this day.

The third concert came hardly more than a year later, summer 2008 (Live in Concert). We went to Amsterdam’s Carré Theatre for the occasion, and I was surrounded by high school pupils I had taught earlier that school year. We had studied English poetry, using Loreena McKennitt’s musical interpretation among other things, and I wanted to share the beauty of it with them in real life. Those young people were very dear to me, dearer perhaps that pupils should be to a teacher. We had touched and influenced each other in ways that will only manifest when something connects on a deeper level. The concert marked the moment where I could feel them slipping away from me, into their own lives and out of mine. It felt like a farewell, and it was.

But the Carré concert also marked a new beginning, and a new soul encounter of the most profound kind. Not two weeks later the first waves of pregnancy nausea washed over me. Our son was with us back there in Amsterdam, with Loreena, even if we didn’t know it yet.

So what crossroads had I reached now, I wondered, as I was sitting in the dark of the Royal Circus, the same concert hall where I sat as my life seemed to be crumbling around me a decade ago.

This McKennitt concert was a trio format, more pure and more intimate than the venues where she would be surrounded by a stage full of musicians and instruments. It had a different feel altogether.

I decided I was also in a different place, and yes, at a threshold in my life yet again. Moreover, in a sense I felt I had come full circle.

As I have shared in an earlier blog, after a period of purging, burning and arising from my ashes, my professional and creative life have recently taken an unexpected turn for the better. For the first time in my life I feel powerful, working on what I love and value, in collaboration with yet another soul friend who walked into my life and decided I had to be a part of his. Only this time, the connection doesn’t throw me off balance. It doesn’t threaten my marriage, it doesn’t flirt with the boundaries of the socially acceptable. And if I turn out to be pregnant again, it will be with a book. This time around, I am ready to work the magic I was introduced to twenty years ago.

I cannot help but wonder when Loreena McKennitt’s road and my own will cross again, and what new, significant moment in my life a fifth concert will mark.

I can only pray that it is a good one. But I already know it will be a powerful one.

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