Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Let's All Sing
I've always loved musicals. I know some people are put off by the idea of people suddenly (and seemingly randomly) bursting into song, but that's one of the things I love about them. It's the sudden bursting into song that seems like how life should be, you know?
Back when I was in high school, I had a friend, Paula, whose family had an annual Christmas party that would culminate with everyone standing around a piano singing holiday songs. I'd never seen anything like that outside of the movies, and I thought it was wonderful fun. It wasn't that the group sounded particularly great, but what struck me was the pure joy of singing with friends. It felt fun and uplifting and festive. I remember thinking that some day, when I had my own home, I'd have parties where we'd sing Christmas songs, too.
Some years later, when I was a just-out-of-law-school lawyer and brand new in my New England community, I was invited to a Christmas caroling party. There was snow on the ground, a crisp chill in the air, and hot cider and cookies before and after singing. It was my idea of holiday bliss.
Flash forward some years to when Miss C was little and we'd moved into our own home. I persuaded my husband to host a Christmas caroling-and-cookie party. I got song lyrics printed up, and I strung clusters of jingle bells on pipe cleaners for the little kids to jingle along, and I invited a bunch of families. We had a good old time, and I will never forget the parents of my friend Jenny, visiting from England, who seemed sort of dazed by the whole experience ("Is this a common American holiday event?" they asked) but were good sports about coming along and singing right out.
I stopped trying to do a caroling party after a few years. Looking back, I can see that my husband and I had different goals around those sorts of things, and what felt fun and spontaneous and relaxed to me felt disorganized and unpolished and uncomfortable for him. It just felt less and less fun, and not worth the frustration.
Flash forward some more, and I found myself singing with the Healsburg Chorus, a community chorus in my area. (I've written about it here and here.) It's been wonderrful fun, and I've learned a lot, and I've made some delightful new friends.
This past Sunday, I hosted a pot-luck dinner to celebrate the end of our spring season and, more momentously, to mark the 25th anniversary of the chorus. We'd just learned that our director Betty, who has led the chorus since its inception, had decided to retire. So we gathered to enjoy each other and celebrate the chorus's long life and to honor Betty and the others who've been along for the whole 25 years. The weather was gorgeous, so a lot of people spilled out into the backyard and there was much chatter and laughter.
At one point, we presented gifts to Betty, the 4 25-year members, and Susan, the amazing pianist who as accompanied the chorus for all of that time (and, thank god, will continue.) Our gift to Susan was a music box shaped like a grand piano that played "I Will Always Love You," which was one of the songs in our spring repertoire this year. (You know the one ... Whitney Houston? Dolly Parton? That one.) Susan, and others, got teary eyed.
And all of a sudden, someone spontaneously started singing "I Will Always Love You" to Betty. And the whole chorus joined in, singing along, a bit raggedly perhaps without accompaniment to follow or keep us on tune, but with such love and joy and four layers of harmoney, eyen. It was, I tell you, just like in the movies. There were big smiles, and some tears, but it was lovely. And me, I was feeling an extra delight at seeing 50+ people crammed into my family room and kitchen, singing away for the joy of it. Just like life should be.
The arrangement we were singing was the one that the Denver Gay Men's Chorus is singing above. We sounded sorta like that, only, well, we're not gay, or all men, and we were standing around a kitchen table. But still. It was PERFECT.