Thursday evening when Glee’s The Quarterback episode in memory of Cory Monteith aired, I was at a reading by writer Terry McMillan about her new book Who Asked You? I watched Glee the next morning. I’ll get to it in a minute, I want to tell you a story first.
Before Terry McMillan spoke, there was a reception with food and music by vocalist Catherine McGill. I was seated at a table with a friend and several women I didn’t know. One of the women hummed along, kind of under her breath, with the music and I noticed what a lovely voice she had. Later we went in the auditorium where Ms. McMillan would read. While we waited, recorded music played. I wasn’t far from the woman with the lovely voice and I heard her again quietly singing a note or two with the recording. After the talk, a line formed to get books autographed, and I was standing behind the singer. I asked, “Do you sing somewhere?” She smiled and said she was raised up in the choir but she had horrible stage fright and only sang in the car and the shower. (I don’t think she realizes how much music leaks out of her by accident.) She indicated that she had given up on the idea of performing because she was so paralyzed by stage fright. She said it was the most vulnerable feeling in the world.
As a writer, I’m aware of how hard it is to read your own words – to give voice and breath to words. I said something to her about how you can’t sing without emotion and we talked about how you can’t hide when you sing, the emotion is there in your voice whether you want it to be or not.
It was a short conversation, really, but it came back to me the next morning when I sat down to catch up with Glee.
At the end of the episode, Lea Michele as Rachel Berry presented Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) with a plaque for the Glee club room with a photo of Finn and a quote about “the show must go on.”
The show must go on seemed to me to be the real theme for this episode. What plot there was to the episode explored how every person deals with grief in a different way. Everyone showed up and sang, they went on with the show, because they had to.
The show felt very personal. The emotion in the voices and in the music cut close to the bone. It almost felt as if the writers asked each person what they wanted to say and let them say it or sing it.
Lea Michele showed up and sang, how she managed I’ll never know. She clutched herself as she sang, as if her grip was the only thing holding her together.
In one scene with Santana and Sue Sylvester, as Sue talked, Jane Lynch’s lines about loss and lost potential sounded like the thoughts of everyone involved in the show.
There was a lot of pain in people’s faces, in their voices, in their music.
Glee couldn’t ignore Cory Monteith’s death. Something had to be done. The show had to go on. As a fan of the show, and for all of us out here on our couches, I want everyone involved with Glee to know that you are troopers – everyone who sang, spoke and appeared in “The Quarterback” – you honored your friend, and you did it beautifully with every vulnerability you possess ringing in your voices.
It must have been hard as hell to do. Thank you.