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September 08, 2014


Very gentle and soothing thanks

Oh Beth, so beautiful!

I miss choral singing, and hope someday to return to it, perhaps when my life is more spacious and I am no longer home every evening with a small person. (I am always aware that that day will come sooner than I think.)

This story really reaches me today. I am reminded of visiting a cathedral in East Anglia, in the summer of 1995, and hearing their choir practicing, and just sitting in a chair and listening. And the friend-of-a-friend who was showing me around asked why I didn't want to keep going, and I said "because they're singing Duruflé," and stayed there through Ubi Caritas, which is one of my favorite pieces to sing.

What a heartening story. You must get such a lift from singing in this choir even though I know it's a huge time commitment. I tried out for the choir in high school and didn't make it. I've always wanted to sing in such a group.

Now, at least, you know why you are going back in the Fall. Why you must go back. Apart from meeting my selfish wishes that you do.

"when we sang as one body". In my experience this is far rarer than most people believe. And when it happens in unison the effect is ethereal - the clear primary sound is overlaid by a slower waveform that must represent a lower harmomic (can harmonics be lower?) and which adds an organic (ie, living) element to the combined whole. I don't have any examples of this in choral singing but it happened live in a workshop version of Cosi I saw at the Festival Hall when Ferrando and Guglielmo entered through the auditorium singing Secondate, Aurette Amiche; I was very near the singers at the time.

The only other occasion I know of, also in Cosi, occurs between Janet Baker and Montserrat Caballé doing Soave Sia Il Vento in the Colin Davis CD. Obviously it must be far harder to achieve this thrilling effect with a choir and I envy you the experience.

"Why do I feel reluctant...."
Maybe because the time has come for you to be a listener and this is why you caught this last glimpse of him.

Glad you liked it, John.

Rachel, thanks for your story. So many people come in and out of the cathedral all the time, mostly gawking as if it's a museum, or acting like we're strange animals in a zoo. I really appreciate those who sit down and listen for a while. And I hope you get to go back to choral singing before too long, you obviously love it!

Yes, Mary, the benefits outweigh the difficulties of making the time. I don't think high school choirs should have tryouts -- too many people get discouraged before they've even had a chance to learn! In Montreal there's a women's choir that doesn't require auditions or music reading - it's been a huge thing for a friend of mine who thought she "wasn't good enough to sing in a group." They all learn, and it's great!

RR: thanks for the stories, and you're right, performances where a choral group really comes together are rare. And there's a difference between excellent, even perfect, ensemble singing and the emotional/musical connectedness I think we're both talking about.

Ellena, I'm actually such a restless listener and concert-goer much of the time: for me the joy has always been in the making of music, especially with others. When I give up choir singing I'll probably find someone to play duets with or something. My reluctance in the fall is simply due to the huge time commitment and not wanting to give up my free summer Sundays. But as soon as I get back to it, I'm always glad. You're right, though, that a time will come when I don't want to, or can't, do it any longer, and maybe then I'll become a better listener, like that man.

A wonderful moment. Of course he knew the etiquette he would breach, and took the risk to thank you.

An acquaintance who is here on sabbatical is a music teacher in a primary school. I'm encouraging him to start a pickup choir, a deliberately casual one. People love to sing and I hope there is an opportunity for all. (The model is Toronto's Choir!Choir!Choir! whom you can see doing their heartfelt thing on YouTube. It is an entirely different choir than yours, yet I like it very much.)

I love reading about this and am quite jealous. We do have a good amateur chorus in town, but my hearing loss means music does not have the same impact on me that it once did, so I would not get much pleasure out of belonging to it. Performances are OK, but it just is not the same as when I could hear normally.
Enjoy it while you can! I never thought the worst thing about hearing loss would be losing my love of music.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.