A parable for Friday morning
Nancy and I were talking about a choir friend.
He directs a college-level choir. A singer has missed 20 rehearsals. He wants to sing at the concert.
His claim? “I know the music better than anyone else.”
He won’t be singing in the concert.
It got me thinking: what counts for singing in a choir? Knowing the music as it is on the page is an important part. Others things matter, too.
- Knowing how the director interprets those notes.
- Knowing how your voice sounds when you are in the middle of 16 or 80 or 300 other voices.
- Knowing how to hold your part when mixing with three other parts.
- Knowing how to take turns breathing so a note sounds seamless.
- Knowing how the director indicates starting and stopping (so you don’t stick out).
A solo act doesn’t worry about these things. A solo act can stand out, can be distinctive.
To be a choir, however, means knows as much about the community of singers as you know about the notes on the page. And to be willing, for the heart-stopping beauty of blended voices, to submit yourself to not standing out, to find joy in alignment.
This kind of submitting doesn’t mean ceasing to be you. Not at all. You are fully aware of how you are making adjustments all the time. And the more you practice, the more you know how to make your contribution to the best possible blend.
But developing a rich understanding of choral music takes practice. It takes presence. It means understanding that a choir isn’t an event, it’s a community.