A Small Singing Moment

I’ve never been able to carry a tune. But I’ve always loved to sing. In 7th grade, I joined the school chorus as an alto, and loved every minute of practice. But when I tried out for the chorus in 8th grade, after the same chorus leader listened to me sing, he told me, “You need to have your adenoids removed if you want to be part of any chorus.”

For the next several decades, I confined my singing to the shower. But I always longed to be able to sing within a group. How wonderful it would feel to have my voice become one of many, to blend with other voices, to be carried along and supported by the breath around me. The closest I came to this experience was Christmas caroling. For several years I joined a friend’s church group as they wandered the streets of Berkeley, stopping at various houses to sing for the people inside. I knew the words and verses to every Christmas carol, and looked forward to caroling all year long.

I haven’t been caroling in many years, but I’ve never forgotten my yearning to have my voice join with others. So when I read the following notice in Next Door—”Do you want to sing with others? Join the Living room Choir.”—I jumped at the opportunity. But not before checking with the sender: “I sure do. But I cannot carry a tune.”

“That’s not a problem. Come join us,” I received in reply.

I did join, and have been meeting with the group once a week for several months. The choir is based on the Ubuntu tradition of singing, sharing the belief that everybody has a right to sing—and should sing—whether they can carry a tune or not, whether they are happy or sad, celebrating or mourning.

The choir had been the perfect antidote to my singing loneliness. Each week we sing simple songs from around the globe, either in harmony or in rounds. While we sing, people move freely to the rhythm of the music, responding to the songs with their whole body, as well as their soul. It is exactly what I’ve been craving, and each week has been a pleasure.

But last night, I experienced one moment that transcended all the others the group has offered me. While we were singing the bridge of one song, the person next to me harmonized with the melody. And for the first time, I was able to hold the tune. Instead of finding myself dissonant and off-key, I felt our two voices rising from their two separate sources, remaining side by side, each holding its own for several seconds, as part of a larger whole. Two voices in tandem, among 15 other voices around me, I was both harmonizing and blending at the same time.

Today, hours later, I still feel that moment within me. That moment of two, not becoming one, but complementing each other, enhancing one another, while a circle of voices around us supported and enhanced us.

Joshua Tree National Park


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