Have you ever wondered what it’s like to sing in the choir? It can be done! Every July, the choir gets a well-deserved break, and anyone who is interested can step in. I wrote this description of our experience last summer, when my wife Lisa and I were still new to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral has an intimidating choir. But even the experts need a vacation, so for the month of July, there is an all-volunteer choir that consists of whoever shows up an hour before Mass. Lisa sang regularly with the folk choir of her (former) Roman Catholic parish. She’s pretty serious about music and sings multi-part pieces well. Me, I did some casual choral singing for fun about 20 years ago. And i took classical piano as a child so I read music. So when Lisa suggested that we go for summer choir today, I thought it sounded interesting. Before I thought better of it, that is.
I think we both had second thoughts this morning (an “oh my, what are we getting into?”) but each of us went for the other. And Lisa agreed to sing alto with me rather than her more usual tenor. So that’s how it happened that at 9.30 we were sitting in the choir room of the Cathedral with some other newcomers. Fortunately there were some regular choir members with lots of experience who were also there, although it was a near thing because there were no sopranos until 9.50!
I had forgotten how much work it is to sing parts; keeping track of the timing, not to mention the notes of your part, without getting distracted by the other sections; reading a piece of music you’ve never seen before, while trying simultaneously to read the words AND watch the conductor. We managed to learn the basics of chant for the psalm, and the a cappella anthem, and then were outfitted in borrowed vestments for the processional. This being the Cathedral, the processional is a big crowd. And then, did I mention that there were several other hymns in parts that we didn’t practice ahead of time? I’m way out of practice sightsinging….fortunately we had two more experienced altos in the section we could follow. Phew!
The funniest thing was at the beginning of Mass when the Dean looked over casually to the choir and then did a classic double take when we saw us. He knows our faces, because we’ve been around for a while now,and he had a big grin for us at the end of the service.
We met lots of nice new people in the choir so we may go back for another go at this somewhat terrifying, but uniquely exhilarating experience. But I don’t think I aspire to regular participation beyond this — too much like work!
If you’ve got a craving to see what it’s like to be part of the choir keep an eye on the bulletin for the announcement for summer choir season. It’s a great way to experience a different part of the Cathedral!
-Susan Forsburg (who finds blogging more to her speed)