A Place Beyond Pain
April 27, 2019
Ambassadors: Bob and Mariann Farrell
Bob and Mariann Farrell had attended my Beethoven Concerto with the Edgewood Symphony in March and were one of the first to reach out. Despite her best efforts to get the word out, the Millvale Christ Church was nearly empty. Those who attended were there because they belonged to Mariann’s Chronic Pain Management group, but admitted this was not the music they normally listen to. Afterwards one young man from the group said, “You don’t know what it’s going to be until you’re there—and then it grabs you in the heart.” But most people don’t willingly take this step into the unknown, and frankly I don’t blame them. If you invited me to a free Country concert, I’d probably run the other way! I think there’s something anxiety-evoking about the thought of being trapped in a room with vibes that don’t resonate with you.
My pianist was Tino—bless his heart! While every other 14-year-old kid is spending the weekend with friends or in front of a screen, here he is accompanying his mother and interacting with complete strangers. He has such a kind, wise soul and I feel tremendously privileged to be able to play these concerts with him. When I asked him what motivates him to play for me, he says, “I just like to make other people happy, Mom.” Always aware of the energy in the room, he played some jazz for the guests to make them feel relaxed as they entered the church with their special chairs, cushions, and canes.
Chronic pain is unimaginable to me…I am debilitated by the slightest headache and I run to get a massage whenever I feel a buildup of tension in my body that yoga can’t take care of. I assured the listeners, as I do at every one of my concerts, that we are not in a concert hall and that this performance is about THEIR comfort and wellbeing. I invite them to feel free to stand, pace, lie down, or whatever is going to make them feel most comfortable. My intention was to help them forget their pain.
The acoustics at the church were excellent, and I performed on the Stradivarius again, which was a welcome reunion with this historic treasure after returning from Mexico, where I performed on my modern instrument. There was a bright gold-leaf wall behind me, and I felt infused by the luster of the space, inspiring a hymn of Divine love in the second movement. There was focused attention in the room, and when the Beethoven was over, Tino treated us to an energizing Rachmaninoff Etude at the piano. I felt reassured when several people told me “I was transported to a place where I felt no pain.”
After the concert, we gathered at the Farrell home nearby, which gave me a chance to hear stories from members of the Chronic Pain Support Group, several of which were young people who will be facing this adversity for the rest of their lives!! One 27-year old woman said, “Sometimes I wish I had cancer instead. That way people would take my pain seriously…and there would be an end in sight.” So how does she go on, day by day, taking care of her young child? “I’m tired of not living, so I do the best I can.” The evening ended with Bob Farrell and me performing some of his compositions. He graciously gifted a Lullaby to me and Tino for Mother’s Day next month.
On my way home, Tino and I noted that most of the people in the showed no indication of any ailment even though they were in pain. We thought about the other forms of pain that many—perhaps most—of us carry around, completely invisible to the outside world. We smile, work, and carry on. It’s easy to assume that those who happen to be wealthy, powerful or popular are less prone to suffering. In the end, we were reminded that it would be wise to reserve judgement about others’ behavior because it’s very well possible that we are ALL doing the very best we can “in the face of adversity."