They Also Serve

This coming Saturday, I plan to visit a quilt show that takes place every other year up the road  in Seneca. (For those in the Upstate neighborhood, it’s at the Shaver Center on the 14th and 15th.) I am an occasional quilter, more of a seamstress. I was raised on my mother’s old treadle sewing machine, starting with doll clothes at age 7 and graduating to making most of my clothes, peaking with a wedding gown. Quilting, being more art and less utilitarian, came later. I took half a dozen classes and made everything from potholders to lap quilts. I was not gifted, but I was good enough to become and remain appreciative. Hence the quilt show.

I saw my first Shakespearian performance in high school and took a theater class in college, and that was enough to make me a lifelong theater fan. I passed that gift on to my youngest daughter during our sabbatical year in D.C. when she got to see lots of professional theater. I remain a live theater fan, and a proud supporter of my number three grandchild who majored in theater. I still muse about answering a casting call at my local amateur theater, but in the meantime, I attend four or five performances a year.

For thirty plus years I sang in church choirs, which are usually patient with imperfection. I had fairly decent pitch and could read music but was rhythmically challenged. I learned a lot from those years, especially how to find and sing the alto line, since my soprano voice from high school choir had dropped about an octave when I went back to choir in my 30s. I remain a fan of vocal music of all kinds—musical theater, choral groups, folk music. I go to concerts.

I am a good writer/speaker/preacher/teacher, and I appreciate a good and responsive audience. It was a long apprenticeship to become reasonably accomplished, although the desire to write and teach was clear in my childhood. I also enjoy listening to a good speaker and reading good writing, appreciating the craft at perhaps greater depth and being able to better discern the quality of the product. I can play both sides of that particular art form.

For music, theatre, art, and quilting, I am happy to be just part of an informed audience, someone who appreciates a visual or performing art that I know just enough about to catch the nuances and admire the effort and practice behind it. Being part of an audience is not passive. As Annie Dillard wrote, “We are here to abet creation and to witness to it…so that creation need not play to an empty house.”  Creativity is not limited to production. Taking on the role of engaged audience member is a gift to the artist. Find a way to give that gift this week.