I am a 54 year old amateur singer. I love to sing. I started singing in the church choir when I was about seven. It gives me a peaceful feeling inside. I don’t think I have the “chops” for a soloist. Over the years, I have found that singing in a large group solves this problem. If I hit a wrong note, there are enough people singing the right note that my mistake doesn’t really stand out. I guess I am a little shy and insecure. (Really? Someone who can’t even use her real name when writing on the internet or blogging with fellow doctors? What was your first clue?) I have never formally studied music or voice. What training I have had has come from choir directors and in school. Occasionally a voice teacher has been brought in to the sectional part of a choir practice to help us learn vocal production. It is amazing what I can learn in a one hour group lesson. This is especially true when the teacher has a significant amount of experience teaching.
The first practice after a long break shows me just how out of shape I am. I can’t breathe. I can’t reach the high notes. Why am I doing this again? This is painful. My throat hurts. The notes sound scratchy. My diaphragm is a muscle that needs to be shaped up. I can feel my abdominal muscles crying out. I’m confused by the directions about where we go in the music.
By the second rehearsal I feel a whole lot better. I can breathe much better this week than last week. We work on the harder parts of some of the songs in sectionals (groups of just one part), then put them together. It’s a different sort of work. We learn the notes and the timing for the difficult patches. It already sounds really good. The high notes are coming back. My throat only hurts a little this week. This week will be working on the CD some, if I can find the time. Usually the best time is in the car when I am alone. Sometimes driving to rehearsal the next week is a good time to review.
Of course it is required that, at some point during our work on the music, my children must come home with some sort of illness, and I must get it. So, part way into the semester, I get a virus, and am sick as a dog. I miss a rehearsal, sleeping in the chair at home. I don’t want to give the rest of the choir whatever nastiness I have gotten from the kids. I go back the next week, but feel almost as bad as I did the first week of practice. At least I am getting the music in my head. The following week is better, but still not quite up to where I think I should be. Ah, the joys of being a Mom. (I wouldn’t trade them for a million dollars; just maybe sterilize them after school every day?)
I listened to CD’s of some of our previous performances just the other day. We sound pretty darned great. It was wonderful to listen to the music that we had worked on for so long. The memories of the rehearsals and the performances came back, as well as the beautiful tones of the music. Wow! It definitely was worth all that work. It is also a great way to warm up on the way to practice. All those high notes are back now and it feels wonderful.
I went to the oral surgeon for some work on a dental implant that I am having done. He injected the roof of my mouth. I asked him if I could sing in 3 days at our next rehearsal. He thinks there should be no problem. Well, the man may know saxophone (he was right about extractions and playing in the band at Disney for my son who plays the sax), but he doesn’t know a darned thing about singing. I could not elevate my palate, which was still swollen and sore three days later, so I missed another rehearsal. So there is more work with the CD.
By the time we get to the performance, the whole group has bonded again. We are forty women from all different walks of life who have spent three months of Monday nights together sharing and growing. We have learned some wonderful music, but the experience is so much more than just the music. We are a teacher, a massage therapist, a stay at home mom, a farmer, a college student ….we all have our stories. But for two and a half hours every Monday night, we are all just singers.
We rehearse with the high school choir for the first time the night before the performance. The sound is different with all those “young” voices. It is fresh and new. Someone in her soprano section must have a lot of vibrato, because we are constantly being reminded that there is too much vibrato in our section. We didn’t have that problem before tonight. We get on stage and do our a cappella piece. The high school girls applaud. How nice!
The night of the performance, we get in our “concert black” outfits. Not too much perfume or jewelry. Let the music speak for itself. One director (ours) is about 5′ tall, the other is about 6′ tall. So, every time they change places, the music stand goes way up or down. It gets to be comical. Otherwise, we are very professional, and the music is absolutely awesome. We come together as one musical voice. The audience applauds appropriately. I do see a young man in the back who reminds me of my son – probably autistic – who is genuinely enjoying the music.
It is over way too fast. Until next year.