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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

If you broke it Neville, you should at least not point out the fact that it's broken.


Good afternoon.

Yesterday was a really good day for me, blog idea wise.  I actually had to flip a coin as to what I would post today and what's getting posted tomorrow. I even thought about just waiting until Friday and doing a "five for Friday" but then I realized both of these things were too much just by themselves.

So here's the winner of coin toss. I doubt my Tuesday night choir director is going to think he's a winner.

I belong to a really small church body.  Most people outside Wisconsin don't know much about it.  But it's a very musical church body and, being as small as it is, anyone who's been a teacher or a pastor pretty much knows everyone else because they're either related to other teachers and pastors or they've gone to school with other teachers and pastors or both.

In my case, roughly 87% of my relatives are either teachers or pastors in this small church body and yes, I was even a teacher once  (they put her in charge of children's education?  WHAT?).  Bonus, my mother's older brother is VERY musical and was, during his career, sort of a musical force in this church body.

I'm telling you all this to explain why I have zero confidence when it comes to my singing.  See, my whole life my parents put me in school and church choirs. Not because I have any talent but because it's what you do in our churches.  I learned the piano, and later I learned all the percussion instruments just to annoy my parents.  I can read music, I can play music. I have a voice that's suitable for a church choir.

But back when I was 13 I didn't realize I wasn't a great musician.  Why?  Because my choir director then, a former classmate of my uncle's, assumed that I'd inherited my uncle's and mother's singing capabilities.  (Not sure how he figured that...oh, and there's no way he'd know from hearing me since I sat LITERALLY behind a wall in the choir rehearsal room.)  Anyway, he decided he'd have me try out for the very select traveling choir.  As a freshman in high school this was a HUGE boost for me, and pretty much solidified my dreams of becoming a world famous rock star. (I was an idiot.)

I was not, as you might guess, super subtle about being picked for a tryout.  Yep, I blared that all over campus. (wow...was I stupid, and I had a big mouth).  I made plans with actual members of the traveling choir to be their best buds forever. (Looking back, I really hate the 13 year old me.  She was so...optimistic and confident.  Moron.)

This is what I sound like in my head.
The day of the tryout came and I was all set to step into my God-given roll and a superstar high school singer.  One tiny problem.  The tryout didn't go so well.

"Um, do you have a cold or something?"

"No."  (I was in perfect voice, I felt.)

"Your voice is really thin. Sounds like you're a third grade girl."

Had the director stuck a fork in my neck I could not have been more crushed.  But then he said this:

"I thought you'd be better.  I mean, look at your uncle."

And I was officially done with singing for a very long time. I went through the motions, I was in choirs both church and high school and college, but the reviews of my voice didn't improve.  I had a high school director later in my life who said I sounded way different from how I spoke, but he put me in the traveling choir because I was teacher's kid and didn't cause trouble.

  In college I joined the scrub choir just so no one would expect much of me. I had to take a vocal
This is a little closer to what
I sound like in real life.
class and the professor, who happened to direct the super cool travelling college choir, kept telling me I had a great voice. So I asked him for a try out for the choir.  That went pretty much as I expected. No cool traveling choir for me.

Let's flash forward 25...okay 26 years.  I've been a soprano in my church choirs for a long time. I sing soprano, I tell people, because I can belt those high notes.  (And because, since I do like going to rehearsal, I don't actually have to practice that much since church choir sopranos usually since melody.)

A couple Christmas's ago, our wine drinking choir...I mean our contemporary choir, sang "Mary Did You Know?"  If you've heard the song, you know it's got some high parts.  Well, our fearless leader, let's call him Neville, wanted MORE POWER from the sopranos on that high A.  And we gave him MORE STINKING POWER,

And after that service I couldn't sing, AT ALL for eight months. Not one note.  I dropped out of that choir, and pretty much faded from the old people's choir...I mean the ADULT choir.

A couple years passed. I stayed in the adult choir and muddled through the soprano lines, not really wanting to admit I could no longer hit a high A. I could no longer hit an F without pain.  Neville had broken me.

Recently I decided to rejoin the wine drinking choir...I mean the contemporary choir...again.  But this time I came back as an alto.  My cousin, a boy, once pointed out that the alto voice in a choir really didn't do much.  I sort of see his point, although I come from a long line of alto singers. Sopranos have the high notes, the tenors have the high notes and the bass section get those fun low notes. It's a rare thing to hear anyone say, "wow...the altos in that choir really rock!" Being an alto isn't a glory spot in a choir.  And, given my history of choral singing, I was really, really okay with that.

So we had practice last night.  Again, I'm not a big fan of actually GOING to practice, but I've been trying to be good. It helps that Hubby is in choir with me.   Apparently, however, I missed last week...Hubby wasn't around and the people who live across the street from us who are also in choir said they honked and waved at me while I was sitting in my swing. I thought they were just being neighborly.  Anyway, last night we were going through a song I didn't know terribly well, but I was doing okay. I find if I sit next to, let's call her Suzanna, I do okay.  She sits behind me in the old people choir, and next to me in wine drinking choir.  I thought I was doing okay. And then:

Neville:  Okay, let's have the upper voices, the altos and sopranos, just at the bottom of page five.

So we sing.

Neville:  Okay, let's just have the altos.  Same spot.

So we sing again.

Then there's this silence. 

Neville:  Would you altos like to try this again?

The four of us  (Apparently I'm not the only who skips choir practice from time to time) looked at each other.  Then I had to say it:

Sarah:  No, but we're starting to feel a little picked on.

Neville:  I'm not singling you out.

Suzanna:  You sort of are.

Neville:  Well, I'm hearing something that's flat.

If you've been in choir you know that the altos rarely get told they're flat.  And most of the time if they need to go over something it's because they ask to go over something.  The alto section is literally the comfy sweats of  the choir. They just...work. 

Now, I didn't realize I was giving Neville, "the eye" but apparently I was.Probably because I was feeling all the feelings I have when someone is expressing disappointment at my singing.  (And I realize he was just trying to find out where the flat sound was coming from...and my guess is it came from me. Never had trouble singing flat before...until Neville broke me.)

Neville:  Well, I don't want to do anything that's going to get me into one of Sarah's posts.

And from the back row comes this:


Hubby:  You can't avoid it Neville. It just happens.

So there you go, Neville and all the members of the wine drinking choir!  See you next week at practice!  (maybe.) 

And let you think I was kidding about the wine drinking part, here's a shout out to our favorite local winery.  Many of the members, including Hubby and me, belong to their "case club."  And yes, it means exactly what you think it means.

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