When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I was in a children’s choir. Not a super fancy one, but a serious one (Young Naperville Singers). I had to audition, and we held multiple performances, including a road trip to Milwaukee one spring. There were a lot of things that I liked about being in the children’s choir, and some things that I didn’t. But the singing, the making of beautiful music together… that’s the part that more than made up for things like boys being boys. I mean, I did quit the choir earlier than I absolutely had to because the girls were being weird and pushy, but the experience was, overall, a good one.
So when I saw the flyer for the Upper Country Singers, it drew me immediately. I didn’t know what I would be getting into exactly, but the thought of singing in a group again was a good one. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to sing in a group. The last time was probably sophomore Music at St. John’s College. There was a choir at St. John’s, but I was rejected after I auditioned. I think I was rejected because the teacher in charge didn’t like me (I’d already argued with her in freshman chorus over the pronunciation of Latin).
To be fair, when one of the choir members dragged me to a practice, the teacher seemed to reconsider. But by that point, I was pretty deep in a depression and thought the invitation to keep coming was out of pity. I didn’t return. Ah, I did do some singing in theater performances after sophomore Music, but that isn’t the same as a choir.
I finally decided to definitely go and check out the Upper Country Singers the day before the first rehearsal. I was nervous to go to a new place and meet new people, but I also wanted to go and meet new people. I mean, I work from home. I don’t get out of the house much, so I’ve barely met anyone in my new town. Joining this group would at least allow me to get to know some folks, even if the experience isn’t what I wanted or expected.
At first, my mind conjured an image of a small group of older ladies singing. But then I realized that this was an adult chorus, and we no doubt had men singing tenor and bass in addition to ladies. After that realization, I stopped trying to figure out what to expect and waited until I got there.
Of course, I was still nervous leading up to the event. I drank a bit too much water before leaving, but I was behind on my water drinking for the day. My fingers felt cold on the steering wheel as I drove from Cambridge to Midvale. I played music from my phone over the car speakers as I wound my way through the pass and entered Midvale. I made my way to the school, and then parked and got out. Another car had just parked, and we discovered that we were both looking for the singing, but none of us knew where to go.
We headed to where some people were, and found our way over to the room where the rehearsals would be held. I asked for directions to the bathroom, and a gentlemen who used to be a custodian for the school showed me where the restrooms were. Oddly, I had to both go up a set of stairs and down two sets to get there. Not exactly accessible, but I’m well able for it.
I then received a binder full of music and sat kind of in the middle of the soprano and alto sections while I waited for things to get started. I can sing either way, and I figured I’d wait and see which side needed more people. When the director told us to settle down, it was clear. This choir has a lot of altos. This was perfect as I do prefer singing soprano when I get a chance. In the children’s choir, I’d been an alto if we were in two parts, and a second soprano if we were in three parts. I definitely preferred the soprano parts, so I was happy to slide over to that side.
The director gave a talk about what we should all expect when it comes to the group. One thing that she emphasized was being a community, which sounds great to me. We took turns introducing ourselves, including name, current town, and our favorite singer or band. Most everyone had trouble choosing one favorite. I went with boygenius, since that’s three great singers in one. I recognized some singers named, but not all. It’s definitely a varied group. I did try to remember names and faces, but I didn’t retain very many. It takes time for me to get that.
Then we got into some singing. It all felt very familiar. The director would play the track for us over a speaker, and then we’d try singing with the piano accompaniment. Each part would go over their notes, then we’d all sing together. It was delightful to hear us go from “what was that?” to some nice harmonies. I’d sit back while we were learning, but once the director signaled that we were going for it, my old habits kicked in. I sat up straight and held my binder up so that I could see the director’s hands in my peripheral vision while reading my music.
There are different levels of experience in the Upper Country Singers, but everyone there seems to love to sing. That’s what’s important, the passion and the joy. It’s a good thing I’m a lot less judgmental about singing than I used to be. I remember getting so upset in church when folks would sing loudly off-key. Like, if you can’t sing it right, be quiet! I now celebrate those who sing loudly and off-key, because it’s about the joy. And, quite frankly, off-key is fixable.
There are going to be rehearsals once a week through the end of November, and then some practice performances with the final performance being on December 3rd. I’m looking forward to being on stage and singing in a group again. It’s a special experience to perform with folks that you’ve been practicing with for months. Maybe I’ll even know everyone’s names by then!