Why do we do what we do? Ever stop to ask yourself that question, a la Socrates, who told us that the unexamined life is not worth living? We can—and should—ask that question about many things: our jobs, our leisure activities, our attendance at church, the way we raise our kids, and on and on. But let me ask it about something we share on Tuesday evenings—those of us who are part of the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale. Why do we sing?
I've just read an article by Canadian broadcaster and writer Eric Friesen about the power of the human voice, especially in singing (you can read the article for yourself here, or you can hear Mr. Friesen in a radio commentary adaptation here). If I were to summarize his thoughts, I think I'd put it this way: in a time when it's tempting to think that the impersonal has won the day, when Twitter, Facebook, and the iPhone have triumphed, the activity of singing reminds us that we still are human beings after all. What is more personal than the human voice? As I see students tromping through the conservatory schlepping their violins, trumpets, and trombones, it's a nice feeling to know that we singers carry our instrument with us all the time. And what a unique instrument it is! There are amazing nuances of tone color in the human voice that result in no two voices sounding quite alike.
So on Tuesday nights, approximately 55 of us get together in a choir rehearsal room and put those instruments to work. As Friesen points out in his article, there are times that we come having had a bad day at work, having fought the traffic to get there, and honestly, the last thing we want to do is spend two hours singing. Believe me, as a director, I feel it too! But then, an amazing thing happens. Vocal warmups remind us of that wonderful instrument that we call our singing voice. We begin to feel the tones resonating in our own bodies, and before long, we become aware that, wonder of wonders, my voice is joining with 50 others to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is an amazing thing! And as Friesen so aptly says, "As you sing, lift your voice to song, you can feel your shoulders lifting, free of the burdens. It's therapy, the cheapest and most dependable kind."
Yes. It is. And we haven't even talked about the joy of singing wonderful text joined to the music of gifted composers.
I like this thing called choral music. Count me in!