February 27, 2022 - The Illinois Junior Classical League Convention, Lyons Township High School, IL

My first Odyssey show in almost three months was for a wonderful group of students at the Illinois Junior Classical League convention in the Chicago suburbs on Sunday, February 27, 2022.

It was also the last show before the 20th anniversary of my first Odyssey performance, which happened in my parents' living room (in a different Chicago suburb) on Sunday, March 17, 2002.

I'm not sure how to process this very Odyssey-appropriate milestone. Some of the folks in the small audience that day in 2002 are no longer in my life. Some are no longer on this earth. I remember the performance in flashes, holding on for dear life to sing correctly the 24 songs that are now as much a part of me as walking is. Or maybe even breathing.

One of the big questions the Odyssey asks us to consider is who someone is after 20 years of time and in fact the very first line of my Odyssey is "Who am I?" In the second to last song, in which Odysseus entreats Penelope to fully recognize him upon his return, he sings "I am today just as you'd recall" and then in the chorus "I'm still me and you're still you." The first of these is a fairly obvious Odyssean lie: after 10 years of war and a 10 year journey home he is certainly not as Penelope would recall him to be.

The second sentiment is a trickier one to parse. What does it mean to be "still me" after 20 years of doing the Odyssey?

On this beautiful almost-springlike Sunday afternoon, I arrived 30 minutes early and set up in the beautiful auditorium. We dialed the sound in and got my lyric projection up and running. The students filed in and the energy in the room built.  My gracious host announced me and I was off into my 342nd performance.

Everything was easy. I could feel my breath control was locked in and could hear the articulation at the end of my phrases. The room was silent with an engaged intensity I'm come to be able to recognize with my eyes closed.

There's a note near the end of the performance that I try to hold for something like 25 seconds. Rarely do I make it the whole time but in this 342nd show almost exactly 20 years since my first, I made it with breath to spare.

Warm applause. Discussion. Post-discussion smaller group discussion.

One of the students asks me about performance anxiety and how I deal with it.  I surprised myself a little when I said, truthfully, that I don't have it anymore.  I have anxiety most other places in life but on stage performing my Odyssey? That's my place to be in control. That's my home. 

I was Telemachus' age in 2002 (if not exactly in years, undoubtedly in maturity) when I performed my Odyssey for the first time.

In 2022, I'm Odysseus' age and have been through two decades of a journey... and you know what?

Odysseus is telling the truth in that song: I AM still me.

And in my 342nd performance nearing 20 years of singing this song, I felt an overwhelming sense of homecoming.

Now, about that winnowing fan...

Leave a comment