Times are weird. We are on edge. It’s hard to know what the future holds for things that we have long taken for granted. War hangs over us like a sword. Guns kill babies. Cars crash into crowds. Churches consider the employment of armed guards on Sunday mornings. We are as politically divided as ever. Families argue. Fists flail. Facts fail us. Little pink hats represent not innocence but resistance. Everyone is angry. What can we do?
Well, for one thing, we can sing.
No. Really. I mean it. We could find a local choir and we could show up and sing in it. Or we could go to a choral concert and sing along—or just sit quietly, listen deeply and let the music massage the tension from our souls.
Late fall is choral concert season around here. Community choirs that reconvened from summer breaks in September have been rehearsing their programs for the last two months and are getting ready to perform. I sang in a concert this past weekend and I know of at least three more choirs readying performances in the next couple of weeks that I hope to attend. I can tell you that both singing and listening focus my energy, calm my fears and rekindle my faith in the goodness of people, their willingness to cooperate with one another and their ability to join together to create something beautiful.
If everyone did it, we’d all be a lot happier.
I sing in a chorale of about sixty members. It is my second year which makes me a newbie compared to a lot of them, some of whom have been devoted singers in this group for decades. Yet, instead of becoming cloistered as long-existing groups can get sometimes, their doors are wide opened to anyone who wants to work toward the common goal—making beautiful music accessible to everyone. And so we do.
In my books, I have written essays about my singing experiences. If you have read them, you know that, even though I have been singing since I was a kid, I am, even still, a complete and total amateur. There are some professionals who sing with us and our director is, of course, a maestro of the highest calling. All of them, incidentally, are much younger than I am. But instead of feeling intimidated by their youth and talent, I find that I am invigorated by it. Every week in rehearsal, I get to listen to them and learn from them and then add my voice, stumbling sometimes, to the magnificence of it all. And I am needed because in choral singing every voice matters. None of us can do it alone. There is no such thing as a choir of one. It is a cooperative effort of composer, conductor, instrumentalists, vocalists and audience and there’s power in the collaboration. Take any part away and the experience is diminished.
It is a timely and much-needed reminder of the good things we can put out into the world when we work together.
Keats said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” In a time in our society where both truth and beauty are at a premium, we need to find them and elevate them wherever we can. Choral music is a fine and accessible place to start. You don’t have to be a virtuoso to sing along. You just have to be willing to find your place in the song. Attending or participating in live, local performances make us part of an incoming tide that will raise all of our boats—working together to make sure that humanity never forgets the beauty of which it is capable.
So sing. Or support a local choir. Or both. Instead of adding to the cacophony that frightens and divides us, let’s make beautiful music—together.
If you are a New Englander, here’s a directory of choirs throughout the region that will help you to get started. I hope you take a look and find a group near you to join or support.