Friday, January 16, 2015

Personal Essay: To Choir, with Love

I love singing, but my favorite kind is in a group. For just a few moments, everyone is totally united in a single purpose: to make beautiful music.

I've sung in a choir pretty much nonstop since I was in grade school. For the last few years I've been especially privileged to sing under Dr. Brady Allred with Salt Lake Choral Artists. Singing in a choir creates unique connections. I may not actually know much about my choir neighbors, but as we meet together once a week, we become friends.

Choral singing may sound easy, but consider that a singer's instrument is more complex than any other--essentially the whole body. The act of singing is very physical and sensorial, and singing with others is especially intimate. We actually absorb each other's sound waves. They vibrate against our eardrums and tap telegraphic messages to our brains. If everyone sings just right--in just the same way--these sound waves weave together in an invisible though very real tapestry.

If you are not a singer, you may not understand when I say that those moments of unity are among life's most transcendent. I think others, like me, are addicted to chasing these "fixes" or highs. Although rare, they become inscribed not just in our memories but in our very cells. Each song, each voice, becomes a time capsule of sound.

So I can still hear Amy's childish belting from our sixth grade children's choir. The still-developing teenage voices of Debbie W., Andrea, Mike, Andrew, and Steve ring in my ears even though I haven't heard them many years. The voices of college choir friends David, Elizabeth, Doug, Carol, and Debbie G. are frozen, like audio ghosts that I can effortlessly conjure to experience their presence again.

Over the last few years, several SLCA friends have moved on to a new life chapter, but their voices have stayed with me. Friends like Erika, now a newlywed; Cindy, too busy to be in a choir right now; and now Joan, one of several MoTab "graduates."

We came together each Tuesday to join our voices together, and maybe we didn't even know that much about each others' "real lives." But for those hours, we were completely united. As another SLCA alto friend Liz just explained to me, in these moments, these people became like family.

We may not sing together or even meet again, but it's all right. Each voice is inscribed on my cells, now an indelible part of me.

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