People who know me know that I am a Serious Choral Person. Other musicians who have heard me laugh hard have commented that I am indeed a singer. (Apparently one’s vocal register(s) are apparent if one has a good laugh. Beware of joke-cracking musicians; they’re making you audition.) For the last five years, chorus music has been a weekly part of my life, and before that (with a pause of a few years), I sang seriously in college and in high school, with the idea that I might someday want to do so professionally. That didn’t come to pass, but I found myself not disappointed, for music remains within reach.
Scotland is a country of choristers, so I am in very good company indeed. Nearly every little village or hamlet has its own singers; every city its choir, every university its community-supported chorus.
Mary’s score is open to Vaughan Williams’ To The Unknown Region (based on a poem by Walt Whitman), a song of amazing complexity and gorgeousness.
Sure, I’ve had bad experiences in choruses with nasty directors and stressful performances – but those are rare. Despite the lingering terror of the audition (oy), for the last two years I’ve had the joy of singing with the city chorus in Glasgow, and I have met some of the most wonderfully odd, insane, ridiculous, friendly, and talented people from their early twenties to their late sixties…with an emphasis on “insane.” We laugh a lot, in our chorus. And when it is cold and dark, we sing aloud for a couple of hours with friends, and rediscover our humanity… and our endorphins.
And, okay, yes: I whine about our chorus outfits – but The Blouse of Purple Hideousness is not that bad. (Hey, it might be short and polyester, but it’s not sequined.) We whinge about standing through a two-hour performance, and complain that “we got that note! It was the basses who threw us off!” but really – who cares whose fault it was? We’ll do it again, work our bums off, until we get it right. We silently stick out our tongues at our director when he berates us for missing an entrance – and then we sing it over again, and come in right on time. We watch the orchestra – distracted by that amazing girl in the brass! – and listen in amazement to the cellists. Whether we’re resurrecting Queen anthems, doing a spot of silliness from Grease or singing the choruses from The Lion King we have fun. And when we sing, we. make. magic.
Music is a gift. Singing with a mass chorus is sparkly wrapping paper, curled ribbons, and a glittery cherry on top.
For the grace of a song in the dark, for the great chords of sacred oratorio reverberating through my mind as I lay wakeful, from the shuffle-side-step-shimmy-bop of ridiculous of 40’s-50’s romantic odes and beach do-wop, to 60’s dance tunes, 80’s anthems, to handbanging metal and grunge, blood-firing gospel, serene flutes and sitars and the swooping romance of Saint-Saëns, I am indeed grateful.