I have to say that last night’s concert left me feeling defeated. Like the music got the better of me (or my voice which most definitely gave out – I feel a lecture from my singing teacher coming on…). It’s extremely rare that I have to give in and stop singing during a performance. In fact, it’s only happened twice before that I remember and on one of those occasions it was the same piece. Maybe Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem is my nemesis…
I was asked this week why I sing in a choir. I was also asked rather innocently if I was paid to do so, and when I replied in the negative, rather incredulously asked if at least I was paid expenses. I have in the last fortnight spent 6 evenings rehearsing or performing in concerts, driven over 700 miles to do so and I’m not working out what that costs in petrol because I don’t want to know. So why would I go back and do it all again tomorrow (and yes, it’s another Brahms performance)?
Because for me, there’s nothing else like it.
- It’s a genuine community. How many other activities have you spending hours learning how to breathe at the same time as 200 other people? Good choral singing means you rely on the people around you, whether it’s to help you shape a musical phrase, to hold a note to allow your neighbour to take a breath or, as was the case last night, to show concern and care when something is wrong.
- You make friends for life. You bond over flat notes and singing when you shouldn’t and rehearsals that feel like they’re never going to end. I feel for the sake of my reputation that I should point out that mostly I sing what I should, but somehow in rehearsals that’s less fun than the mistakes!
- It’s a great stress reliever. My attendance was at its best when I was teaching, a job which for me was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Of course, some of my fellow choristers might have wished my attendance was a little less good as I moaned about my job yet again in the break…
- You realise that there are other people even more geeky than you out there. And I’m talking about hugely successful people like John Williams, having learned during last week’s Star Wars concert rehearsals how he came up with the words for the music!
- We get to perform with some of the best musicians and conductors in the world. Sometimes you have to take a moment to realise what an incredible experience it is.
- We get to perform in some of the best concert halls in the world. And some of them are really uncomfortable (not ours obviously). But you can’t have everything.
- And of course, we perform some of the greatest music on earth. And yes, I include the Brahms in that statement.
So I will pick myself up, drink as much honey and lemon as my body can take, and go back to tackle the Brahms once more. Because I won’t be alone when I do so.