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|In Praise of Choral Singing|
Jun. 1st, 2009 at 3:13 pm
It was inevitable: Mom would lose it at some point. This time, losing it took the form of her daring us to take charge.
“SOMEONE needs to be in charge here. Anyone? Anyone? OK then I’m in charge! Listen.”
I knew this would happen. I don’t know if she knew it would happen, but I knew it. It happens every time we prepare a musical number for Church.
We are a musical family. By “musical,” I mean we like music, read music, play music, and sing music. I do not mean we do it well. We just all do it.
Growing up, our family prepared and performed musical numbers in Sacrament meeting a few times a year. I thought everyone in the ward did this, but since I have been an adult, I have either chosen very unmusical wards, or I was just wrong. Anyway, part of my mother’s Mormonism is to perform musical numbers AT LEAST at important events, such as baptisms, baby blessings, and missionary farewells and homecomings. And now that we have all left the nest at least once, those are the only occasions on which we gather to go to Church.
Although I like singing and miss doing it as often as I once did, I sort of dread family musical numbers. For one thing, my mother likes to push our limits. I am of the philosophy of choosing a simple piece and performing it well whereas my mother, the one in charge, prefers to pick a more complicated piece and just do it.
Another challenge is our gender ratio. On Friday, when I was wrinkling my nose at a sister’s offer to sing Tenor, she reminded me that we will be 8 to 2 (eight women vs. two men), as if I had forgotten the gender makeup of my family. The sad fact is, many a piece of music we might like we just can’t pull off with so many altos.
That’s another thing. Given our druthers, all of the women in my family would choose to sing alto. I have encouraged my brothers to marry sopranos, but I think they will settle for just getting married and (selfishly) not make voice part a limiting factor in their dating pools.
Then there was the instrumental stage. I had a few siblings who played strings, which was enormously impressive to my mother. So for YEARS our pieces were structured around cello and viola. Not that I have anything against strings, they just aren’t needed in EVERY piece (and sometimes the voices of the instrumentalists were).
This weekend was our youngest brother’s missionary homecoming. Actually, he came home a few weeks ago, but this was the week he was speaking in Church at least a little bit about his mission. So, quite predictably, my mom picked a piece for us to perform in Sacrament Meeting that none of us had ever heard. Then we did not assemble for an initial run-through until less than 24 hours before we would perform. We bickered and joked and differed in opinion as to whether or not to ignore the rest, what, exactly WOULD the tenor note be if a tenor part (or a tenor) existed in this piece, and why is so-and-so excused from being here to practice this right NOW? our way through an initial practice. We characteristically waited until the last moment to try to coordinate a rehearsal with our accompanist (who, it turned out, could not practice with us until the day of because she had 5 soccer games and 3 other events to attend on the day of our desired practice). We misplaced music and did not hold it correctly when we had it. We totally ignored the written dynamics. We did not coordinate outfits.
But as we sang we, family in diaspora, united. Although we have very many disagreements about the way we live and ought to live and, most especially, they way each other live, we blended. We now entertain quite different ideas about politics and money and religion, yet we sang as the voice of the Lord in electrifying harmony and serviceable unison.
Our little family choir was a communion on Sunday.
Can’t wait until the next family event that warrants a musical number.