At Church

Reading Music

The choir drifts in from the frigid night. Soprano and alto exchange warm greetings while tenor and bass discussed the weather forecast with the Choir Director. We settle into seats by section, and I glance at the music handed to me. It has been five years or more since I sang with a choir in any serious way, and tonight I  just "sitting in," singing along with them as an introduction to the choir members and an opportunity to see the Choir Director at work. Four years ago, almost, a virus damaged one of my vocal cords, and only in the past six months have I begun to hear some improvement in my voice. I wonder, can I sing? Will my sight-reading be up to par?

I know I cannot match the skills I had when singing in the choir at Large Church.

When I joined that choir in 1992, rust covered my reading. I knew what the notes stood for, very well, and could play the piano, but to read a note and to have it come out of my mouth sounding the right way seemed to be entirely different things. I remember feeling lost and frustrated and embarrassed when I could not grasp my part easily.

A year went by, and sometime in the second year, the flushing of face and racing of adrenaline stopped. I knew how to process the lines and shapes on the paper into a particular sound. I stopped over-thinking and simply sang. Soon I became the reliable alto, the one who knew where and when we needed help and how to ask for it without embarrassing anyone.

Last night I risked all, singing despite the voice that has been Peter Brady voice-change froggy for several years now.  I knew I would not have the old sound. But would I have the old sight? And would I forgive myself if I did not?

I open the first score and look for the alto part. I hear the intervals in my mind, reading the measures of introduction. And then I open my mouth, and I form the right note in mind and breathe it into voice.