Singing For My New Boss
A terrible dream torments me. It is the day of the concert and on arrival at the hall I realize I have forgotten my music folder and regulation black shirt at home. I have to drive home but I cannot find the car and if I do manage to set out I will miss most of the concert. And all the while the tunes go round and round in my head.
What brings a grown man to such subconscious fears? After more than thirty years break, I have returned to the demanding pastime of classical music, this time in the form of joining our local choir. I could have returned to the piano, but the thought of that took me back to the tyranny of endless practice, a thumping – on – the – back teacher and an adolescent who would rather be elsewhere. The idea of joining a choir has been incubating for a long time and with the kids growing up and my recent departure from local public life I decided that it was time to return to my love of singing and performing music. The Voice or X Factor were out of the question – I could not embarrass my kids that much.
A choir is an organization like any other although very hierarchical. The conductor is at the top and is the supreme ruler. Our conductor reminds me of the chef at the Italian restaurant I worked for many years ago – impulsive, emotional, critical and single- minded in getting to the result he wanted. Luckily I was the dishwasher so usually I was out of the line of fire. Our conductor is tough and straight talking which serves to somehow keep the volunteer bunch of singers in line. She is happy to field questions but tough on mistakes and has no patience for those who do not do their homework or make repeat mistakes. At our age – mostly over 45’s – I do not think that any of us is scared of her but you do not want to be on the receiving end. Her style is at odds with many of the current trends and fashions in management but music is a special world where training, knowledge, experience and expertise bring utmost respect and honour. Praise is forthcoming when we deserve it. It is refreshing to be part of something where you know exactly where you stand.
The conductor is the leader but does not control everything. The choir has existed for more than twenty years and there is a warm and incredibly homely atmosphere that is first and foremost built on the sharing of food and drink. There is a roster each week of choir members who organize the refreshments for the break. The efforts people go to are extraordinary, each week bringing another gourmet cake that you only see in cookbooks. Knowledge sharing is done through e-mail and a shared gmail account. There is a choir committee that runs all other aspects of the choir such as finances, publicity and gives feedback to the conductor. It is indeed a “peoples’ choir whose organizational culture is based on respect, mutual care and of course a love of music.
How was it to enter this world? At first I was completely overwhelmed. There is little routine or procedure for receiving a newbie. Someone said that it is rare for new males to join. I was positioned in the bass section according to a message I left on voice mail! Apart from a few questions, a pile of music and a referral to a life-saving web site, the approach was sink or swim. After a few weeks of spluttering in the water I chose to swim and started to work at home. I returned to reading music after thirty years and it felt good. I was and am highly critical of myself and fearful of not getting it right.
And now, after only three months, my first public performance is coming up. I feel a little uneasy as the rest of the choir has been working on some of the pieces for a year and a half. I am not sure I deserve to be allowed to perform but this is a club that has let me in so I here I come.
At the dress rehearsal the moment I had been waiting for arrived – the addition of a small orchestra. After months of breaking my teeth and ears on the various works suddenly the music wraps you and one is transported to another world where only beauty and perfection reigns. Now I think I am ready. I hope I do not have anymore nightmares in the next few days.