After the mad rush of the Marlboro Tour and a concert of incredibly challenging Bach Cantatas and the Magnificat in Philadelphia the following week, I tried to settle into a comfortable routine of being at home for about ten days before hopping off to Chicago for some concerts with my good friends at the Music of the Baroque. I got off the plane in Chicago on a Tuesday afternoon and immediately felt the calmness of being somewhere familiar. It was so nice to know where to go in the airport, know the person who was picking me up, and just feel the comfort of being in the part of the country where I grew up. As diverse as my ethnic background is and as much of the world I have traveled these past 9 years singing, I am a Midwestern boy at heart, and there is a certain sense of hominess I feel in Chicago that I never feel any other place I work. As I stepped out of the airport, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Part of my relief was the knowledge that after the Music of the Baroque concerts, I would begin a month off – my first chance to spend more than 10 days in at once in my new home, and to put my feet up and relax a bit. I spent my week in Chicago visiting with some very close friends who live here as well as friends who were in town to work. I also sang at a few Chicago high schools on my days off as part of an educational program that Music of the Baroque has. My educational colleagues and I drove from school to school, sharing many laughs along the way, taking the rather early class times in stride. Rehearsals for the MOB concerts were great fun, as I was making music with friends – we laughed our way through much of the rehearsals and just enjoyed working our way through three scores of rarely performed pieces by Handel (my favorite composer to sing).
After the concerts, I stayed for a few days to see a performance at the Lyric and to visit with my aunt, who lives nearby. I flew back home to New York on Thursday afternoon and immediately unpacked my bag. I was excited to get home, as I had just ordered a new couch and piano, which were to arrive on Friday. Once I had reorganized my place Friday afternoon and had enjoyed sitting on my new couch for a few minutes, I headed out to for a meeting with my manager. As I was making my way down to her office, my phone rang – it was my manager. "Nick – I have an urgent matter to discuss with you: The Chicago Symphony just called…" she said. "You're kidding…" I said.
It turns out that a colleague was not well, and had to cancel singing the tenor arias in the St. John Passion this week. After some decision making on both ends (I had only ever performed the Evangelist – not the arias), I had a flight booked to go back to Chicago and a rather pressing reason to park myself at my new piano to woodshed. Saturday, I repacked my freshly unpacked bag, and Sunday morning, I found myself flying straight back to where I had just been. At rehearsal on Monday, I saw a colleague who had just played the MOB concerts and who also is playing these concerts with the CSO. He smiled when he saw me, and said, "Long time, no see!" and I replied "This city is like a magnet – I just keep getting pulled back!"
The week has been pretty spectacular, despite the stress of learning these incredibly difficult and tricky arias and needing to get them up to a very high level so quickly. My colleagues are some of the best people in this repertoire in the world, and having the unexpected chance to sing with CSO again is pretty dreamy.