Saturday, 22 November 2008
Singing The Messiah last night was wonderful. It is glorious stuff. Handel wrote such amazing music, and it is such a joy to sing. The whole audience stood for the Halleluia chorus and then applauded enthusiastically. We all sang well, even with a touch of can belto. I had to withdraw from the choir's previous concert, as a nasty and persistent germ had rendered me voiceless, and it took a good six weeks before it started to recover. This time it is only my sore feet I have to worry about.
Now I am playing Leonard Cohen as I write. He also gets straight to the heartstrings, even though I don't understand the words.
I came to singing relatively late. Although we all sang at our convent school, and enjoyed it, once I left school I did not sing for more than twenty years - that is outside the house, as I certainly sang along with the opera in the privacy of my very own house. Part of the reason for not singing was that I did not think I had any musical talent. My sisters and I (there are five of us as well as two brothers) learned piano, and the sisters all had some talent, but not me! My fist piano teacher used to rap my knuckles with a piece of dowelling when I played the wrong notes. Eventually the teacher advised my parents to stop wasting their money. As I loved music I then took up the violin. I was not much better at it, but I loved the instrument, and enjoyed the lessons a lot more. But at university, when other students joined choirs I thought the music was much too difficult for me.
What got me singing was the breakup of my marriage. I was almost destroyed by this, and it took years before I started recovering. One effect of the breakup was that I was unable to read, and reading had always been a great pleasure. So I turned to other pursuits. My youngest sister got me involved in silk painting, and much to my surprise I turned out to do it well. And I joined a small singing group. At this stage I could barely remember how to read music, so I was a very slow learner. Soon I wanted to sing more classical music, and joined an adult group which was an adjunct to a musical education organisation for children and young people, run by an incredible gifted and energetic musician in Canberra. Before I knew what had hit me we were singing Purcell, and, what's more, performing it in a concert. The next thing was that this group formed the chorus for a production of Handel's opera Hercules. We had to move around the stage of the Canberra Theatre Centre wearing Greek style masks, making appropriate gestures, while singing eight (!) very long choruses from memory. Fugues, to boot! It was scary. But after that I knew I could do anything. I progressed to un-auditioned choirs and then to auditioned ones, and singing quickly became an immensely important part of my life and one of its greatest pleasures. My voice is essentially untrained, a soprano, with a clear pure tone, and I like the sound of it, although, when I used to walk along the street singing softly to myself, my embarrassed children would beg me to desist. But mostly, singing is physically pleasurable. They say it releases endorphins. That has to be right. After choir, everyone goes home feeling very happy.
My choral experiences include singing in the Sydney Opera House, for the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, various mass choir events, and competing in the ABC choirs competition (unsuccessfully). I have also sung in small choirs, a capella style. They have all been wonderful experiences. And it also taught me that the more you do of something, the more likely you are to improve. Having a passion for music and singing has given me so much. Singing in choirs is becoming increasingly popular. Probably this is increasing human happiness.
So many people say they can't sing, or have been told not to sing. That is so wrong. I think we can all sing, just as we can all speak, and learn. We need to sing. Too many people never get the opportunity.
And the Leonard Cohen CD has just started playing Hallelujah.....