Friday, December 3, 2010

Something Magical

One of the truly magical experiences of the holidays is singing in chorus with other people. Tonight I had the great pleasure of attending a reflective evening of music in a 150-year-old church in Brudenell. The church was candlelit, with Christmas trees on the altar. The pews were full of our community members; all had gathered to listen collectively to a choral presentation. We were asked not to clap between numbers in order to perpetuate the sense of quiet reflection that was the goal of the evening.

Have you ever noticed that when you eat guacamole, it is a whole experience? The individual ingredients fuse together seamlessly, so that you can hardly distinguish lemon from avocado from garlic from cilantro from salt. A blended choir is like this: the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass meld together into pure sound, and it is hard to focus on a single note sung by any one part; it is the perfect whole that you are perceive.

As I listened, I glanced around at the many familiar faces around me: my Grade 8 Home Economics teacher, one of my dad's teaching colleagues, my midwife, a former dramatic director; I noted body language, who sat close to whom, the spaces surrounding us, and between us, separating and also connecting us to one another in community.

As beautiful as the evening's music was, the highlight came at the end when the congregation was invited to join in singing classics such as "What Child is This?", "Silent Night", and "Joy to the World". The beauty of live music is in its fleetingness. It cannot be captured. Each note must be sung, enjoyed, then forgotten as all voices move to the next. Spontaneous harmonies emerge; the surprise of hearing sonorous, rich sound emerging from the chest of the person closest to you; the shyness of people who don't normally sing but feel safe in a choral situation; the closed eyes and rapturous expressions of people who may not consider themselves Christians, but still feel the resonance of these old songs.

Singing together in community is a pure and simple pleasure; there is something primal about it that conjures images of bonfires, stone circles, player pianos, parlours, churches and congregations. Seek out opportunities to sing in community, and teach your children songs so that they, too, can sing in communion with others. It doesn't matter if your voice is reedy, or the notes off-key. Take a deep breath!

...and if you want to sing out, sing out, and if you want to be free? Be free! ~Cat Stevens


  1. All that I have left of my late sister are two CDs of her voice in song and speaking. She died unexpectedly two and a half years ago. She lived in Moscow so I didn't speak very often to her. We did talk together for nearly forty-five minutes just ten hours before she died. As a professional musician, her voice led others in choirs and songfests from one side of this world to the other. Hearing her sing in Russian and English, alternating verses, brings me to tears and may always. Thanks for reminding me of her rapturous talent.

  2. My husband and I were just talking about this yesterday. It was so magical when we were kids, singing Christmas carols at church and school. Those old carols are so beautiful, and it's a shame that out in public, Christmas has been completely stripped of all its religious content, so that when you're grocery shopping you no longer hear gorgeous melodies like "What Child is This," but rather, "I'd Like a Hippopotamus for Christmas." *groan*

    Now you've got me thinking about how I can introduce these old songs to my kids. We don't go to church. I suppose I can always play them on our keyboard, even though a few keys don't work. :D


  3. sounds wonderful, truly a magical start to the season .. love and hugs xx

  4. All I have to is "As Lately we watched ov'r fields through the night.."

  5. I love old tunes..... Christmas is the one time of year I wish we attended church.... perhaps we could sneak in just to sing? (sorry, I'm awful, I know) But we'll have to settle for old tunes on our radio..... both with & without voices. Beautiful old melodies and sweet voices singing away.... definitely magical :)

  6. have you considered (and apologies if you are already!) writing for income?! I read a large number of blogs and you are without doubt the most creative articulate and polished of the lot.
    Several of your posts expanded upon would be suitable for paid submissions to published periodicals and magazines. Might be a way to keep the cash flow flowing and the homestead fires burning where you are planted.


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