If you want to become a good writer, I have been told repeatedly, you must write every day whether the spirit moves you or not. Once you have begun to make as much a habit of writing as you do brushing your teeth each day, a type of ‘muscle memory’ kicks in, breeding confidence, as if you are playing a song on the piano you memorized as a child and can still remember as an adult.
Nowhere has this exercise become more evident to me, however, than with singing. I have been singing in choirs since my teens, opting for more and more challenging venues in adulthood in order to stretch my knowledge of music and improve the quality of choral tenor God gave me.
It wasn’t until recently, when joining a local chamber group, that I realized how much value I now place on practice.
We began our journey together in early February, with our choral director explaining to us how meticulously she searched for music that would be appropriate for such a small, intimate group of singers. We listened with curiosity as she played her selections for us on the piano, displaying broad smiles at some of the music we heard while reacting with politeness at others.
And then the practices began. Six women (none of us professional musicians) from their 20s to their 60s gathered weekly, sometimes twice weekly and on a few occasions, three times in one week in order to learn only nine musical scores. The practices lasted anywhere from three to fours hours each time, oftentimes leaving us frustrated, exhausted, and with a solid skepticism that we could ever be able to perform this music for the public.
I clearly remember a particular afternoon of practice after which it seemed everyone went home feeling defeated, thinking that our ability to find our notes, blend, enunciate, use the proper open vocal tones, commit the music to memory, sing some of the music a cappella (with no accompaniment) and finally FEEL the meaning of music we were preparing to perform would simply never happen all at once.
We are only a week away from our two performances as this newsletter goes to cyber-print. And not only are we ready to perform, but we are also confident, excited and even playful with ‘our’ music. As we perfect our presentation over the next week, we will be able to look back at the grunts and groans, the evenings we spent singing to the four walls of our offices or bedrooms as we practiced privately, out of sight and sound from family members, and how intensely we might have disliked the music we were tasked to sing.
Until, with practice, we learned to love it.