A Warm Summer Evening

So, it’s the first days of spring and I receive a message inviting everyone to join the Avature Band, which will be performing at the end of year party. I think it over for a while (work is picking up and my team, Sales Engineering, is on high demand), but I finally put myself up for a singer spot and suggest what I’d like to sing – though I imagine the band will have something completely different in mind. After some negotiation, we agree that my song will be Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” That’s several notes above my vocal range, but I assure them I’m up to the challenge – how could I not be?

A couple of weeks later I get an email from the band’s team: musicians and singers are all lined up, all songs have been chosen; everything is literally ready to rock and roll. The band has started rehearsing and singers will be called up for a couple of full band rehearsal sessions shortly. There’s a tradition of keeping the song list secret up to the very last moment, but people ask about it anyway and we -the singers- play with them a bit, giving a few hints here and there. “It’s gonna be as good as last year’s, if not better,” I say, and in a way I’m saying this to encourage myself, as last year’s performance was such a success that I feel we’ve set the bar very high, and it’s going to be a challenge to meet everyone’s expectations. The end of the year rush is picking up speed, and as sales projects start getting to the finish line, it’s clear that setting time aside to practice won’t be easy, but with my team’s support, and stretching my workday a little, I’ll manage.

The end of year party is scheduled for the second week of December, and as we get close to the date the singers are invited to rehearse their songs in the studio that Avature has booked for this purpose. It is the same as last year: a true professional studio, where bands can actually record their music. The space is small, but somehow everything fits: a full drum set, keyboards, guitar, bass, even a horns section, and of course the singers, who crowd up in a corner waiting for their turn. It’s surprising to see the variety of musicians and singers: there are people from every role in the company, from COO to junior developers, and from the very young to about the oldest –which, sadly, turns out to be me. The songs range from classic 80’s rock to the latest pop hits, and although there may still be a few nuts to bolt, everything seems to be coming together. We make a first pass of all songs, then I do mine a couple of times –screaming at the top of my lungs at times to reach the highest notes, and not quite getting there– and run back to the office for a meeting. A few more rehearsal sessions are held over the next couple of weeks, but there are several customer meetings that I can’t miss and only manage to be there for the final session, a few days before the party.  Now everything sounds tight; we’re all set for Friday night.

And finally the day comes. It’s a very warm summer evening and the night air hasn’t brought any coolness with it, but spirits are high. As I walk into the party venue I have the feeling that I hardly know anyone – it’s striking how much the company has grown over the last few years. I have drinks with colleagues I hardly see these days, as they’ve moved to other floors in our building; memories from last year’s party are shared and celebrated, group pictures are taken. A little after midnight, we start setting everything up for our performance. At about 1 am, right after a cheerful corporate toast (it’s been a good year, the next one is expected to be even better), we are ready to get started. Everyone gathers around the band, which starts with a rocking version of Soda Stereo’s “Séptimo día.” We, the singers, are gathered around the corner, and with every new song (from “Boys and Girls” to “Seven Nation Army” to “Don’t Stop Me”), we see the crowd going crazy; everyone dancing, jumping and singing along. We get to the second to last song -an astonishing performance of “Bad Romance” – and then it’s my turn: I’ll be the one to close the show.

I walk in, pick up the mic and get ready. There must be around three hundred people forming a huge half circle around us, everyone cheering and getting ready for the last song, everyone enjoying this moment to the fullest. The drums start thumping the beats that open my song, and as that final thud explodes and I am about to sing my first line, it hits me: something is going on here, something that goes beyond the music and the party. I could say that it is communication or connection, but that would fall short: what’s happening here is something bigger, something that binds us all together and which I cannot fully grasp or express. I am lost for words.