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Home is where the harmony is

My very first year with my new choir is just coming to a close. It would be a touch hyperbolic to say I’ve loved every minute, but it’s actually been surprisingly close to that. Not for a single second have I doubted that I made the right decision in leaving my previous choir for this one; the group and the music we’ve made have just been a better fit for me in every way — except driving distance, but there could have been no beating the fact that my previous choir rehearsed less than five minutes from my house.

In the three years I was with [redacted], I learned hardly anyone’s name outside of my own section and knew virtually nothing about any of my fellow musicians. If they had quirks and personalities, I wasn’t allowed to see them, and I wasn’t allowed to show mine. It was designed to be that way. No Talking During Rehearsal. No Disruptive Behavior. No Addressing the Director Personally. All Questions or Comments Routed Through Section Leaders.

I understand, I do. It’s not like I’m a screwball and I resented the structure; far from it. Sacrifices have to be made in the name of excellence, and you don’t perfect your craft by screwing around. You do it through hard work and dedication. But rules do not produce those things. Caring. That’s the only thing that can make a person try hard enough to become great at something. I care a whole lot about the music on my own and I always have, and I take my responsibility to it very seriously. That’s something I’ve always been able to bring to any choir I’ve been a part of. I have a great deal of respect for fellow musicians who work the same way. What some directors (and some choirs) never realize, though, is that it’s possible to go beyond that. Caring about the music is one thing, but when you become invested in each other, as a choir, when you care about each individual member as well, your own sense of personal responsibility grows exponentially. You not only want to do right by the music, and by your own talents, you also don’t want to fail your fellow artists.

I’m not trying to trash talk a group I’m no longer a part of. They’re good people who love to sing, and I got a lot out of my time with them that was precious to me and deeply necessary. What I’m trying to say is that from the start of my very first rehearsal with this choir, I felt so much more a part of both the group and of the music that I knew I was where I belonged. After three years with the other choir, I was still “the new girl.”

Our final rehearsal of the season was tonight. On Monday we’ll be giving our final concert. I have a small solo which, despite being small, is a big deal to me. I lost confidence in my voice somewhere in the ten or so years that I stopped singing. Part of me feels I must have been the last choice for this solo and everyone else must have turned it down, while another part is cockily insisting that I’m the best possible choice what am I talking about. The rest of me says, Alyssa, it’s twelve bars out of at least an hour of music. No one cares about your blip on the radar. Shut up and sing your notes, and stop being so self-absorbed. (Still a big deal to me. Still nervous about ruining the entire song by giving it an awful start, and in turn creating a bad vibe that persists throughout the rest of the concert. And my song is only second in the program. It may be self-absorbed and I may be overthinking, but I’ve seen this happen. I’ve been aboard this particular kind of sinking ship before.)

So I’m jittery. But also excited. I get to make music with a group of people who love what they’re doing as much as I do. Also feeling the impending loss of music in my life for the next three months and starting to get wistful about that. (Yet one more thing summer takes from me. It’s looking like we will never be friends.)

But mainly it seems like what I’m trying to say here is: music.

4 thoughts on “Home is where the harmony is

  1. I loved singing in a choir, and have always felt that part of the point of it is that you sing in unison. It’s designed to make people be in sync and experience a feeling of community and belonging (hence all the singing in church – or even national anthems, for that matter). To curtail that kind of communal spirit, seems contrary to the spirit of choral singing (actualy music/melody/harmony aside). In any case, wishing you the best of luck with your solo. I am sure there was a reason you were given that part, and being nth choice was probably not it!

    • Right? All of the rules against fraternization, I felt, really prevented us from coming to grips with who our fellow members were as musicians, which is damaging on its own, but then it also affects your level of commitment to each other and your ability to be a single voice.

      Thanks for the wishes of luck. I do sort of need them. After several weeks of bronchitis, my lungs could still decide to do just about anything come Monday.

  2. Music — indeed! I’m so glad you’ve found the place to make yours. Congratulations on the solo.

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