It’s surprising but choir is often kind of a political experience. You would think it’s all about the joy of song, but it isn’t. Members don’t like some members. Some are considered great, some useless.
The choir I joined in January is specifically supposed to avoid this kind of stuff. It’s a women’s choir. We don’t use written music, instead, we have lyrics and recordings of parts. We sing arrangements of pop songs from the sixties and seventies. Members are a range of ages, with more people in their fifties and sixties than in their twenties and thirties, as is usual for activities like this. Twenties and thirties are busy with careers and families and have nothing left over for hobbies.
I quickly decided this was easy. The songs were catchy and I kind of knew some of them already. So I switched sections, which you can do at will. There’s a very small ‘response’ section which is a middle voice with some harmony and echo type effects. This has turned out to be much more difficult than I was bargaining for. Without music, there’s a lot of stuff to remember, a lot of bebopalula type phrases which you have to remember to fit into the right places of the song.
In addition, we are to memorize everything, which it turns out is close to twenty songs for our upcoming June concerts. Yikes! I’ve never been strong at memorizing, making up for the deficit with a good ability to read music. Since there is no written music, that ability isn’t helping me.
For the last few rehearsals, the politics of this have also struck. One of the ladies of this very small response section (last night there were three of us) is extremely devoted to getting it right. In her enthusiasm, she only includes the ‘best’ singers in her comments, saying things like it’s up to the two of them, or if there are more, praising the two she considers good and completely ignoring myself and another new member who has ventured to sing in this section.
It makes me feel two inches tall to tell the truth. I suspect it also bothers the other ignored new person, though she is quite outgoing and so has others to talk to. Still. To be singing our hearts out and then completely ignored, in a small section of 3-5 people, is painful. We do get most of the notes. And I’m not sure that these longer time members are completely wonderful all the time.
I was surprised though how angry this made me, especially once I was back home. So this is obviously hitting at a weak point in me. I don’t need to be so upset when someone doesn’t include me. I know it says quite a bit more about how this woman looks at things than about me and any abilities I might have. I mean, this is not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or anything. We’re explicitly there to have fun in an informal choir.
The fact is, what the section needs is not one or two people getting every note perfectly, but a few more singers who will venture into out section. The choir has about forty to fifty members on average, so two or three for one section is not enough. My guess is this woman’s perfectionism is scaring women away from trying our section. Maybe not, but I suspect it is.
Anyway, I’m looking at this as an opportunity to let things roll off my back in low stakes circumstances. Last night, I’d thought both of quitting and of moving off to another section to avoid this whole scenario. But now I’m thinking, I was to be secure enough in myself not to let this crap bother me.
I’m thinking back to the way I felt I had to quit a full time job I had two years ago. I was genuinely falling apart under the mistreatment by a strange boss. But I think I didn’t need to let this upset me to the extent it did. I want to be able to bounce back, to not be thrown off every time someone doesn’t treat me nicely. The world is a mixed up place and I don’t want to retreat every time there’s a problem.
The choir practices in a neighbourhood church, and it is really quite lovely to stand at the head of this grand old building with the arched ceiling, stained glass and dark wood, and sing out, surrounded by other voices. It has it’s moments. It’s a nice thing to do. So I’m not going to quit the section, I’m going to go back even though I’m angry, I’m going to suck it up and sing out. I know I have worth. I don’t need to be validated.
At the end of practice last night, this woman kind of came after me. Maybe she sensed I was irritated and leaving abruptly. She came up to me and said, don’t worry, you’ll get it together eventally. Don’t worry.
So then I felt mightily condescended to. I was keeping up my part. I didn’t know what she was trying to say. So I retorted that I actually wanted to sing with the sopranos, which I do, because this part is too low for me, but that I’d felt sorry for the response section, as there were only two of them. Then I left.
Then I went home and stewed about it. And decided to go back and not be intimidated, condescended to, or made to feel less than. The stakes are low, and it’s good practice.