Choir; the musical equivalent of Yoga
What is it about the focused effort of creating something beautiful with a group of like-minded people that is so quintessentially satisfying? Learning something you didn’t think you could and then having the time of your life nailing it (most of the time) in front of a very appreciative audience? Multiply that joy by 50 + souls and you have the Bowen Island Community Choir. At the first practice I peer down at my full binder of music and wonder how I will ever learn the repertoire by concert time. I don’t read music (although I am learning) and as a relative new comer to the Choir, often it’s the first time I’ve heard the arrangement. Add to this the challenge of holding my tenuous grasp of the alto line along with my alto mates while the sopranos, tenors, basses, and baritones charge ahead with their parts. It’s an adventure with every practice.
Our conductor, Ellen MacIntosh leads with a balance of humour, wisdom and discipline. When we are lost and sound dreadful she has us laughing and repeating the phrase until we get it, employing metaphors and imagery until the coin drops and we nod our voices collectively. I marvel at how she looks at a section of music and can hear all of its intricacies and textures, and has faith we can sing her vision even though we don’t at first know how to get there. And then we do. She has a knack for choosing music that resonates right to your core as well as pieces that at first mystify me and then I grow to love. She is a magician.
Sheila Sparks is our remarkable piano accompanist, expertly highlighting the notes and rhythms we miss, continually re-playing sections with shocking patience until we get it, all the while working with Ellen as a seamless team. We are ever so lucky to have her.
Learning the repetoire requires a singular focus that is surprisingly restorative at the end of my day. It’s the musical equivalent of yoga: I leave choir calm, satisfied and inspired. The happiness in part comes from learning and layering the harmonies, blending, tag-teaming and leap-frogging our way through the pieces. In the midst of this calming focus we build our sound, sing the stories and fill the Cates Hill Chapel to the rafters. And with every practice a sense of camaraderie and trust grows between the sections: we are producing this sound only because we are one of many voices. And for a moment – especially when we get it right – a spacious joy fills my chest and I think I might burst.
4 months later, and many sessions on my own frightening my husband and cat as I bang through my alto lines, concert day arrives. A flutter sits in my belly as it does before a roller coaster ride: once we start it’s a heck of a ride, careening along musical phrases, gleefully clinging to Ellen’s direction and Sheila’s accompaniment so we don’t fall off. It’s brilliant fun. Come join us Wednesday nights at Cates Hill Chapel beginning Sept 6th, 7:15. You will have the ride of your life.