Here’s the best advice I can give you this week.
Go out and join a choir.
It’s not like you’d be lonely. Choral singing is the most popular arts-related participatory activity in the United States. About 28.5 million people sing in one or more of some 250,000 choral groups in the country. And, believe me, it’s not just because the choir never gets the collection plate passed to them, either.
I’ve been singing in choirs myself for more than 75 years, and there is nothing else like it. Now I’m not talking about the “Glee” experience which pretty quickly got off the point, and ended up where everything else on TV ends up these days — mired in adolescence and sex.
Not that there isn’t some of that in the classic choir experience, specifically college choirs, which specialize in youth and thus naturally in the concerns of your average college kids. I have to admit it was a part of my college choir experience too, in that I had a crush on the director, and good friendships with a lot of the guys as well as the girls. One of them evolved, in the healthiest way possible, into a relationship that lasted for over 50 years. (MHTB was a baritone.)
But in the best choirs there is so much more to the experience even than that. To begin with there is — guess what — the music! And I am turning old-fashioned here to some extent because you can’t sing in a good community choir without occasionally tripping over Bach or Handel, and there is nothing like getting on a personal basis with the giants of the genre to reach heights and depths of expression that are simply not available in any other amateur undertakings. I have sung even in church choirs that took on the hard stuff — and it was worth it. (Well, to the singers, maybe not the audience.)
And if B and H are too high-falutin’ for you, try some modern music — in Cumberland Choral Society recently I have sung music that was written in the last 20 years, and has exalted my spirit in ways that are difficult to explain — with more to come this year! I am getting too old to sing in a choir, but I can’t tear myself away!
For me, it all started when I was five or six, and I have sung steadily in choirs ever since. Most of all, from my early years, I remember singing in Christmas Eve services. I have come to pity little children who do not have an uplifting Christmas candlelight music experience in their lives, preferably with them singing in one of the choirs.
The whole story and promise of Christmas for me is a package wound about with glittering strands of tinsel and candlelight in darkness, organ thundering and voices soaring. We made a big thing out of Christmas Eve at our church when I was little, because both the pastor and the choir director were on the same page. (Which was “Knock the ball out of the park!”) It made for unforgettable Christmases, as you can tell, and being an active part of all the noise and color made it even more thrilling.
But the best thing about all this is that it doesn’t have to be Christmas for you to get that glorious feeling. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to imply that spiritual exaltation is a regular part of the choral experience. You do have other things to think about. Just getting the notes right — all the time! — can be a challenge in itself.
In the College Choir, we sang every night for a couple of weeks at a time, over choir tour, and it was a great experience. Even the concert when all the tenors suddenly stopped singing and slowly sank to sitting positions on the risers. (Every single one of them!). It turned out that one tenor had uncorked smelling salts when he felt faint, and they made all the other tenors sick to the stomach. (Tenors are very suggestible. ) Even the night we couldn’t find our way off stage and milled around in front of the audience looking for the door. Even the night, at one of my childhood experiences, when one girl (not me, honest. Mom!) caught another girl’s hair on fire with her Christmas candle.
But soaring happens. I have sung in many church choirs, in the University of Maryland Chorus, in the Pittsburgh Mendelssohn Choir, and in the Cumberland Choral Society, and with every group I have had moments of exaltation, completely without benefit of drugs or any dangerous after-effects.
But maybe I’m asking too much. It’s stupid to demand a life experience in each and every rehearsal and concert, and I know good and well it doesn’t happen a whole lot.
But there’s gotta be a reason some 28.5 million people sing in choirs, and I asked several folks at Choral Society rehearsal on Monday night why they sang. I was hoping someone would come up with some remarkable, insightful, (preferably humorous) take on the matter, that would end this column with a bang. . But each and every one ended up with the same dull reason: “Because it makes me feel good.”
What it is apparently is a feeling of hours of earnest personal satisfaction, interspersed with a rare moment here and there of gut emotion. You can’t ask anything more than that for a hobby, now, can you?
Model trains just don’t compare. (Sorry, Bro.)
Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.
Here’s the best advice I can give you this week.
- Maude McDaniel - Living
- Very first memories of a very long life
July gotcha down? Maybe these will help
•In a hospital's Intensive Care Unit, patients always died in the same bed on Sunday morning, at about 11:00 a.m., regardless of their medical condition. This puzzled the doctors and some even thought it had something to do with the super natural. No one could solve the mystery as to why the deaths occurred around 11 a.m. Sunday, so a worldwide team of experts was assembled to investigate the cause of the incidents. The next Sunday morning, a few minutes before 11 a.m. all of the doctors and nurses nervously waited outside the ward to see for themselves what the terrible phenomenon was all about. Some were holding wooden crosses, prayer books, and other holy objects to ward off the evil spirits. Just when the clock struck 11, Pookie Johnson, the part-time Sunday sweeper, entered the ward and unplugged the life support system so he could use the vacuum cleaner.
Hiccup cure you may find hard to swallow
Let’s give a cheer for one of the things in the human experience that the scientific researchers haven’t fully figured out yet: how to cure hiccups! Somehow it kind of restores your faith in the world, doesn’t it?
But don’t think they haven’t tried.
She learned to laugh with relatives’ help
Sometimes there are people in our lives whom we have never credited with all the influence they had on us when we were growing up.And now it is too late to thank them personally. I am about 50 years past due on this one (or two) but maybe somehow, somewhere they will get a hint of it — and — smile. Fondly, I think..
Signs of aging and what comes with it
It’s been awhile since I last informed you of new signs of old age, and meanwhile none of us have gotten any younger. (I’m working on it, I’m working on it.) I find one of the best things I can do to stay young is to read the obituaries. It reminds you that you are still alive and there are times in one’s life when that can be a serious concern. Of course, the trick is to avoid reading the obituaries for people you know, first checking the pictures for familiar faces. But for the folks you never met, they are remarkably invigorating, especially if they were older than you are. It gives you a goal in life — and we all need goals, right?
Torn between failing in two different fields
Which do I like better, singing or writing?
That's a tough question to answer.
Singing's got it all over writing as far as when I started (at about 5 in the church choir) but writing is certainly a close second. I have somewhere a collection of poems that I wrote from about eight on and I have the feeling that they are lost for a reason! As I remember, they were pretty awful, not at all the kind of effort an aspiring writer would be proud to quote 75 years later!
Bad habits are hard to eliminate — but try
Somebody mentioned smoking on these pages recently, so I thought I'd put in my own two cents on the subject. I started smoking in college, during exam week. The problem was that I was too busy during the rest of the year ever to stop and study for my courses — at least that is what I told myself — because I worked almost every night on the college newspaper. So when exam time kicked in, I threw some all-nighters for study. And the best way to stay awake all night (especially if you don't regularly smoke) is to, well, smoke.
Trivial questions you don’t have to answer
Every so often in this life, my mind, all on its own, generates questions that have no real answers. So I have decided to pass them on to you. I’m tired of them. If you come up with any answers, let me know. Remember when TV jealously guarded the time zone before 9 p.m. for wholesome shows that children could watch. My gosh, how many years ago was that? It seems like another world nowadays, when you can see murders, torture and rape, or those implied, every hour on the hour, somewhere on your public screen. It might be comforting then, to remember that most children nowadays are glued to their little machines with whole different worlds on them, that they can access all day long. Except that in these different worlds they also can view murders, torture and rape on demand.
Rusty writes about the nature of doghood
I am a dog.
Therefore I bark.
I don’t understand why it is so hard for humans to understand this.
I mean, there are certain things that come with the territory, right?
Free-range reminiscing and occasional nostalgia
When I was in grade school, (many more years ago than when either of you were in grade school) my daily winter (fall, spring) routine included walking to school across a railroad track.
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