I Dreamed a Dream

April 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

This is all the rage on the internet.  I saw it first on a friend’s Facebook page and then spent the rest of the afternoon listening to, reading about, and just being in awe of Susan Boyle.  (you really have to click through to listen to this if you haven’t already — embedding is disabled for the YouTube vids of her.)

I wasn’t going to blog on this, but then I read a little more about this lady and was given a reason.  She is the youngest of nine children.  Her own dreams were set aside while she cared for her ill mother.

From the news:

As details of her life emerge, Boyle’s story only becomes more unlikely. The youngest of nine children, she lives alone with her cat, Pebbles. She spent years taking care of her mother, who recently died, and she lives in a government-subsidized home. She always wanted to sing in front of a large audience. but mostly she just sings in church.

On Easter Sunday, the day after her television debut, Boyle – dubbed “the woman who shut up Simon Cowell” in one headline – received a standing ovation when she went to Mass.

“We let out a wee bit of a cheer for her. We are quite proud of her,” Boyle’s parish priest, Ryszard Holuka, said in a telephone interview.

He added that Boyle is a “quiet soul” who doesn’t “flaunt herself.” He described her as “understated” and never “pushy.”

“At gatherings and anniversary parties, she’d stand up and give a song,” he said. “She never flaunted her voice; this is the first time it’s been publicly recognized.”

From all the accounts I have seen she is just a quite person who has led a quiet life.  Apparently she made a promise to her mother to try and do something for herself, and that promise and the urging of friends led her to do the unexpected and go onto a TV talent show.

The song she selected to perform was I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables.  It is a haunting piece, regrets of dreams lost and the cruel inevitability of the passage of time.  It was almost like she (or the producer that selected the piece, I have no idea how the show works) was creating the perfect set-up for the judges and audience.

You can seen in the judges’ and the audience’s  faces that they were full ready to heap scorn and ridicule on this frumpy old spinster who dared to dream of being as famous as Elaine Paige –ironic that more Americans now know Susan Boyle than knew Ms Paige four days ago.   Then she began to sing and by the end of the third line the house was standing.    They wrongly judge her.  Her talent so far exceeds her appearance that it was shockingly unexpected.   This is a rather sad comment on our society, but Miss Boyle takes it in stride (from the WaPo again) ” “Modern society is too quick to judge people on their appearances,” she said. “There is not much you can do about it; it is the way they think; it is the way they are. But maybe this could teach them a lesson, or set an example.”

This realization combined with this beautiful voice gives a heart pulling tug that knocks you to your knees.  Every one assumed that since Miss Boyle was lacking beauty and glamor that she couldn’t possibly have anything of worth.  Like  Grizabella’s  ( And who would ever suppose that that -Was Grizabella the Glamour Cat!)  plaintive reflections in Memory from Cats.   “I can smile at the old days –  I was beautiful then”.  Beauty and youth so worshiped and so transitory, the real beauty is the soul and the song and they only becomes more beautiful, more real and more  powerful with age.   The overwhelming interest in this woman and her moment in the spotlight is driven by more than the fantastic performance, while her voice is really termendous, I think the shame and hope we simultaneously experience in her performance is the real force.   Shame for understanding so well the harsh judgment of her appearance and hope that we all can have that moment where we are judged on something more substantial.

For now Miss Boyle is enjoying her success,  she has gone home and the children of her village cheer for her in the street and her parish (yes,  a Catholic Parish  — had to toss that in there) gave her a standing ovation when she came to mass this past Sunday.   I hope like Grizabella,  Susan Parker is chosen as “the one” —  that she wins her contest and sees much success in the future.

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