I saw Kelli O’Hara on stage for the first time.
It was a real thing that actually happened.
For those who don’t know, Kelli O’Hara is my favorite voice. There is something about her voice that is so clear, calming and soothing to me. On top of that, she is a talented and passionate performer and has always seemed like a genuinely good human to me. As it turns out, I was right. She went above and beyond anything I could have ever expected.
When we were walking to the venue entrance before the show, we saw what we thought was an accessible path to the stage door. We all definitely wanted to stage door after the show, so once we went inside and were settled in our seats, Shimaali went to talk to someone as to how we could do that. They told her to come talk to someone in the lobby after the show and that was that.
Please note: Our seats did not suck and I was about to burst with joy everywhere.The excitement I had, had been building for years. The concert hadn’t even started yet and I was smiling like a big goofy kid with a heart full of wonder and magic. It all just spilled over the second Kelli walked onstage.
Newsflash to nobody: When Kelli O’Hara opens her mouth, the sound of the angels fills the room. It was like we were in this cozy cocoon of music for an hour and a half. My friends and I could have stayed in those moments all night. Everything about it was perfect.
The two songs that were the biggest highlights for me were “The Light in the Piazza” (The Light in the Piazza) and “To Build a Home” (Bridges of Madison County) – All I have ever wanted was to hear her sing live from those shows. During “The Light in the Piazza” I couldn’t believe I was finally getting to hear her sing from that show. I couldn’t look away. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. On the other hand, during “To Build a Home” I had to look down and close my eyes. I couldn’t even look up and witness that this was happening in front of me. I NEVER thought I’d get to hear her sing from Bridges. I was bawling. It was stunning and transcendent. So much so that I came home and thanked Jason Robert Brown for writing music for Kelli’s voice. Seamless perfection.
The whole concert turned me into a giant ball of emotion, which is a surprise to no one. I still don’t have all the right words, the ones I’m using don’t seem like enough.
And then something completely unexpected happened…
After the show we went to pick up my walker and talk to someone in the lobby. They told us they were just going to see if it would be ok to just bring us backstage. We were cleared and a few minutes later we were in the hallway backstage with Kelli and all of her other guests.
You can guess what happened next… Yep. I cried. A lot.
I mean… I’d never seen Kelli. I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me. But sure… come on back and say hello, Kimmie and friends. What?! I still haven’t fully wrapped my brain or my heart around the fact that someone could just be that easygoing and kind.
So. I met Kelli. We all met Kelli.
There was a joke circulating between the girls that I wouldn’t remember my name. The last time I met someone who inspires me and has a piece of my heart, I couldn’t remember my name or even speak words. I’m proud to report that with the help of My Person text-chanting my name at me all the way from NY, I remembered my name. HA! Take that, overwhelming emotions!
Not only did I remember my name, I got to tell her that I’ve been trying to see her on stage since Piazza, in several shows, but for some reason or another, something always happened and it never worked out until this concert. I told her that this was the first time and it was more than I ever could have dreamed. She was grateful I was there. She asked me if I lived here and when I said yes, said she’d try to get out here more and when she does, I’d have to be there. Well yes, Kelli O’Hara, I will be there with bells on. And then I gave her a card I wrote just in case I had forgotten my words. She talked with Shimaali, Emelie and Bianca. We took photos. We laughed. She told us we collectively had the best hair she’d ever seen. We laughed more. It was all a beautiful whirlwind that I never wanted to end.
I hope this happens again. The joy I feel is filling my very weary soul. To say that I am grateful would be an understatement.
To Kelli: You are the warmest, most humble human being I have ever met in my life. Thank you for your unbelievable kindness and for sharing your time with us. We’ll never forget this night. Those moments are everything. I will cherish them forever. I apologize if my note was a jumbled awkward mess, I had a lot of feelings.
To Shimaali: Thank you for doing the work to get our tickets and then making the night extra special for all of us. I never thought this would happen so I appreciate it more than you will ever know. I love going to things like this with you, we always have the best time.
To Emelie & Bianca: Thank you for coming with me. I’m so glad we got to share this together. It was something special.
I love all four of you.
To the VPAC house manager: You’re awesome. Thank you so much for making our night even more incredible than it already was.
(A note about the Valley Performing Arts Center: This may be one of my favorite venues I have ever been to from an accessibility standpoint. There was no fighting with stairs. EVERYTHING from the grounds outside, to the lobby, the house and the walk backstage was flat. The doors were wide. Our seats in the orchestra were incredible. And the accessible parking was right outside the front entrance. When we were leaving, I desperately wanted to walk through the whole building again filming a video with my phone to show other venues how they SHOULD be doing accessibility. Maybe it was because it was a college campus, but even still, venues like this seem to be rare and I appreciate them all the more when I can get around in them without stress or frustration. If anyone else I love ever does a show there from this point on, I may just have to make the trek to be there.)
To my friends & family: Those of you who, over the years, have made plans with me to see Kelli, those who have sat with me and made travel plans, those who have tried to get me tickets to shows, those who got tickets and then something happened for it not to work out – I thought of every single one of you on Friday night. I wished so hard that you had been there with us too. You were there in my heart. Thank you for always reminding me when I was sad that it would happen when it was the right time. Given the state of my world, now was definitely the right time. I love all of you.
My heart needed some hope. Right now hope is all I have and I will hold onto it for as long as I possibly can. Music heals what’s broken, if you let it.