All I ever need to know ...

...I learned in choir.

You know the series of books and spin-offs, right? It all began with the outrageously popular Robert Fulghum book. Last spring, the theater class at our son's high school did a spring play based on this book - vignettes of the stories it contains. Lessons like "share" and "listen" and "love" -- good, universally human stuff - with song and dance and the energy of high schoolers. It was a good play.

Well, I've been thinking about it a lot lately - and I think that it's true - all I really need to know I learned in choir.

1. Pay attention at rehearsal.

This is a biggie. See, at rehearsal, parts are assigned, and you find out about things like the place where you're supposed to stand, and you get information about when to shut up. You learn to listen to the other parts, if you're paying attention. In fact, you learn "the music" - as in, music itself - as a universal language of emotional expression - becomes part of who you are. It's worth it to pay attention at rehearsal.

Last year at about this time, I had a Braxton-Hicks evening. A rehearsal for days to come. A practice session. This evening, I said that day, in the soaking rain and February chill, my husband will come home from another long day away. When he gets here, we'll have another practice run at living in a nest from which the offspring have sprung. It won't last long, but it's a genuine moment of preparation for a new day ahead. Today is a day when the breath in my body, the understanding of why my joke was funny, and the place where my tears find equal and answering emotion comes home to me - and only me. Today it lasts for a few hours. When our new life is born (due date, sometime this year), today will have been good practice.

I anticipated the date a bit ... that life still hasn't been born ... but it's on its way, and all the moments of "just me and you, we two" that happen between now and then are rehearsal days.

2. Make your mistakes out loud.

This one's a two-edged sword. If you don't make your mistakes out loud in practice, you WILL make them out loud at performances. So you have to be willing to make mistakes in the venue in which they can be corrected. You have to get over yourself. You have to see that the choir together, and the music made by a choir, are far more worth working for than your own face-saving perfectionistic desires. Good choir members make mistakes - and they do it in rehearsal so that the performance of the group will not be marred on the big night.

3. Some folks are soloists, and some aren't.

It's true, you know. And the fact is that if a soloist will not do his or her part (and all the practice and hard work and taking criticism and finding the personal voice and interpreting the music itself), then the choir is poorer for it. And if someone comes up out of the group to sing the solo who really shouldn't, all the choir and audience cringe a little. The soloist without the choir is poorer for it ... and the unintentional solo (see #2) is the worst of all - and worst of all for the one what did it.

4. Pay attention to the director.

Have you ever gone to a choral performance of any kind and had one of those oddball, disconcerting experiences of observing one member of the performing group in a moment of wandering attention? Every single time this happens - if the opera member's attention wanders to something off stage, if the choir member's attention suddenly wavers to see who just walked in ... no matter what the audience was looking at in the fraction of a second before it, the wandering attention draws all attention away from the music and the performance and the story and the progress and arch of the emotions. It's just not fair to anyone for a member of the choir to do that.

Distracted parents can't parent.
Distracted writers can't hold the interest of readers. Distracted drivers cause wrecks. And sometimes it takes a lot of effort to hold one's own attention to the task at hand.

5. Get enough rest - don't eat phlegmy foods - don't lock your knees.

In other words, in a choir, the support and communion of the group doesn't remove each member's responsibility for himself. I gotta take care of me, and you gotta take care of you, or the whole choir goes down when the guy in the back row faints on us.

A choir is good rehearsal for life.


Deanna said...

Love it! Mind if I share a slightly edited version with my church choir director?

Stephanie said...

Sure, Dee! Welcome to it (tell him (her?) where you got it too!). I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Polly said...

That's a funny picture - LOL.

Douglas Bienert said...

6. The Watermelon Technique (aka: faking your way through life)

When you have lost your way, don't know the music or the words - just mouth the word "watermelon" repeatedly. There are enough vowels and consonants to make it appear like you are singing!

This works great, unless the ENTIRE tenor section does this simultaneously.

Who knew choir directors can read lips. "ARE YOU MOUTHING THE WORD WATERMELON?" I'd rather not contemplate the rest of that class session!