The Gift of O Holy Night
The first time I heard Barry Alexander sing was in a master class on performance I took from him and Cosmo Buono, a concert pianist. In the class were five amateur pianists and one aspiring singer. “We’ve got to get you to loosen up here,” Barry told the soprano after she had sung a Purcell aria. He grabbed her hand and loosely shook her arm, so that I almost could see the tension squiggle out of her body. “Now, you’ve got to open your mouth and just let the sound come out.” Barry opened his mouth and his baritone, strong and rich, enveloped the rehearsal room.
In my folding chair, I felt my mouth open too, not to sing, simply to express my appreciative wonder. For 10 years my husband and I had been season subscribers to the Metropolitan Opera. Back then, we had been so-called DINKers—double income, no kids—but nonetheless, from our pricey, front-row seats in the Dress Circle, we had been so far from the stage that the singers looked like Lego miniature figures. Now Barry, who had specialized in Mozart and Gluck on the opera stage, was only five feet away, and to experience his voice was like an aural spring bath.
Who wouldn’t want to hear more from a fine operatic baritone in an intimate setting? Perhaps seeking to recreate that moment in the Seventh Avenue rehearsal room, I asked Barry if he would shoot a video of himself singing. The video, I reasoned, would complement the article he had written for GRAND PIANO PASSION™ about how he and Cosmo had volunteered time at a halfway house for substance abusers, by performing carols on Christmas Day.
Barry sent me a video of O Holy Night, one of my favorite carols from childhood. When I clicked to open the link, the experience was as close as an adult can get to recreating the excitement of opening a novel gift on Christmas morning, except rather than a doll or a new desk or a curling iron, some of the more cherished gifts of my childhood, Barry had sent me a gift of music: