Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Friday, February 03, 2012

CHOIR


Yolanda SharpePear and Apple, 2007
pen and ink, colored pencil and acrylic painted paper, 15 by 15 by 15 inches


Some time ago I agreed to join a choir, my arm having been twisted into strange configurations by an otherwise quite gentle and pleasant choirmistress. I had friends in the choir—my painter friend Yolanda Sharpe, who has appeared on this blog and The Lydian Stones, and who has a marvelous voice and does recitals, and many others. But right away I discovered that a choir is such a mixture of many parts--apples and oranges and pears and pomellos jumbled together.  We have such an unusual number of pronounced eccentrics (a conventionally polite word for lunatics) in our choir that I have threatened to write a revelatory comic novel called CHOIR.  Each member must be made to blend into a whole: into a kind of family, if you will.

I didn’t particularly want to plunge into the choir, as participation demanded a lesson once a week, practices twice a week, and performance once and occasionally twice a week. Then there are unexpected things called choir festivals and sundry other stray performances. That’s a lot to add onto the heaped plate of a mother of three who has many village activities and also just happens to be an obsessed writer. I did not know how to read music, though I was perfectly capable of bumping along if given the first note. Luckily I was a soprano, which struck me as far easier than being in any of the other sections.

Since then I have discovered something that lots of people know who are not obsessed artists of some sort, bound to a vocation.  I have found out that it is a pleasure to add some focus and discipline to one’s natural feeling for an art that one is no expert in. Likewise, it is enjoyable to learn something new; at the moment, I am grasping intervals and doing much better with duration of notes and rests.  These things remind me of poetry, and I certainly aspire to song there.

Each of the arts is a fertile sea in which strange, beautiful beings may be found—some immensely great, others quite invisible to the naked eye. Without the sea of culture and its innumerable small creatures, no great one could survive. 

19 comments:

  1. Lovely Marly! I guess I'm lucky. Our synagogue choir is such a loose confederation that people often do not show up for weeks at a time. They don't take it very seriously. We don't have lessons and are not required to know how to read music. I have never learned how. I should, I know. Perhaps I will buy a book and try it again.
    We don't perform very often, and do not travel or have special conferences to go to. We get off easy, with just a practice a week or so, and maybe a performance a month, if that.
    Most of the people in my choir are not eccentrics. There's just one other person, perhaps 2, who fits the bill besides me. They are quite normal, average, very nice folk. There are a couple or three music professionals though, who sing in other, more structured choirs, and and paid for their singing, and a guy who performs in musicals, though he is a lawyer when he is able to find work.

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  2. Also, I love Yolanda's drawing! She is so versatile!

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  3. You are missing a great deal if you have no lunatics. And you must exaggerate if needed!

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  4. Yes, Yolanda is prolific and has a number of different modes at her fingertips--and is always adding new ones. She has started doing watercolor and did a major piece for a show at Wayne State.

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  5. Marly - please, please write the CHOIR novel!

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  6. Marly - please, please write the CHOIR novel!

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  7. Marly, I too was initially a reluctant member of this Choir, especially since it works better for my voice not to be tethered by the shenanigans of the "eccentrics". I need to sing the music in my repertoire to keep my voice (and myself) sane and resilient. As you may remember (I don't know if I ever told you) I was dragged into the choir because of my late, and dear friend, Larry, who was the choirmaster and organist before our current one came. I loved Larry (still do), and admired his patience and thorough approach to music with the other singers. His approach mirrored mine when I prepare for concerts, recitals, or work with opera productions. Also, Larry was hard to keep saying "No" to.

    One Sunday, I was minding my own business, sitting in the pew before Larry played the Prelude. Larry had sent several choir members to me to "show me around", since I was still new to the parish. These sly ones actually grabbed me on both sides at the elbows, took me downstairs where the choir robes up, quickly put a robe on me, and carted me upstairs, out the community building, and back to church! They marched me past Larry, who was casually standing on the steps near the Sacristy. He was smiling, yet, said nothing.

    The choir folk said, "You are singing with us. Larry told us that you read sight read very well."

    Hmmmph! I told myself!

    That's how I was recruited into the choir.

    YO

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  8. Gail,

    I am sure that you would be the perfect reader of such a book! As would be the whole Dooley clan...

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  9. Miss Yo-Yo,

    I love that story. If you don't quit, I don't quit!

    Of course, you know that you and I are automatically lunatics by virtue of art! I see by my poetic license that I am a registered Lunatic for Art...

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  10. Having spent most of my life as a member of church choirs, I can only, um, chorus: "Write the book, Marly!"

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  11. I would probably be run out of town on a rail, since people have a propensity to think characters to be themselves...

    And it would be tempting to use a few genuine persons!

    But I like to make things up.

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  12. Wonderful post. Once again, I am envious of those who have a voice to sing with! I'd love to read a book by M.Y. called 'Choir'. In the meantime, I will enjoy the company of my fellow 'lunatics' in my artists' group.

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  13. Yes, all we of the arty brethren and sistern have lunatic cards!

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  14. I would so like to sing in a choir, but I don't think such an option is really open to me. I felt some of the same sense of adventure taking the life drawing class though, I think.

    You are amazing, the things you do.

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  15. Lucy,

    I always think you amazing in turn--like a very few people I know, you are entirely adventurous in the arts and go splashing in many pools. (I'm still waiting for you to take up dance... Maybe you did once, long ago.)

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  16. Marly,

    You are probably writing the book right now, despite the fact that you are posting that you are thinking about writing it. Hmm. . . No, I won't think that I'm in the book because, I'm not crazy enough, nor interesting enough of a character.

    YO
    : )

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  17. Haha!

    Dream on, Miss Yo-Yo... In addition to having a lunatic Art Card, you have certain very interesting characteristics and tendencies which would make you a wonderful character.

    However, I find that poetry has my heart at the moment, so I am safe from being tarred and feathered for a while.

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  18. Marly,

    I will keep dreaming on so that you can keep me out of the cast of characters. HA!

    YO

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  19. Your only safety is in my obsession with poetry!

    ;-)

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.