mellicious: pink manicure (Mel - snow)
[personal profile] mellicious
On with the continuing story...

Alright, the last piece of this story we covered - I know, it was days ago, sorry - was that I learned how to breathe (finally), right? Well, after that things kind of took off. I mean, nobody was gonna run right out and sign me up for the Met, but clearly I was definitely much improved. There was sort of an All-Star system in Texas for high-school musicians – you tried out for Region choir, and if you made that, then after that there was Area and then finally State. My freshman and sophomore years I didn't even make Region choir. There were 14 chairs, I think, in each section, and there were 4 boys and 4 girls' sections - 1st and 2nd soprano, 1st and 2nd alto, and so forth. (That's because lot of choral music is actually written in 8-part harmony.) I was a 1st alto – although this was debatable because they were always telling me I wasn't a true alto. But even if that was true, I always sang alto. I thought it was more fun – sopranos usually sang the melody and it was singing harmony that I liked. And the directors always went along with this because there were always too many sopranos and not enough altos. I guess natural altos are more rare.

Anyway, so I went from not even making Region my sophomore year - so worse than 14th, at least - to 6th my junior year, and I think 2nd my senior year. Sixth was good enough that I got to Austin to the All-State tryouts. (Technically there was the “Area” choir, as I said, but that was actually all that it meant – it meant you got to try out for State.) This was considered to be a huge thing. I didn't even actually get to try out for being #6 – I was an alternate, I just went on the trip in case somebody got sick. It was not that unusual for the alternates to get to try out – it was in January, after all, people got sick a lot – but I didn't. I was still very excited about it, though – I got the privilege of going to extra rehearsals to learn the tryout music. This would have been the fall of 1975, when we were learning the music, and the tryouts were in January '76 for the 1976 All-State Choir, which did its only performances in February, I guess. 1976 was – are you guys mostly too young to remember? - the freaking Bicentennial, which we were all starting to get sick of before 1976 ever rolled around, but that meant that the music was, naturally, All-American. I have most of the music around here somewhere, I saw it when we moved. I know there was an Ives piece, and I think a lot of the rest of it was in that vein, too. (As a matter of fact, I think the piece that I've had stuck in my head for days, that "Omnis Spiritus Laudet Dominum" thing, may have been one of those. It was William Byrd's words, but set to music by a 20th-century American composer. At least I think so.)

(You guys are probably lucky that I don't have a microphone, because I probably totally would have posted a clip of me singing by now. I really love the part of that song with the lyrics I was quoting a day or two ago, the “there is not any musick of instruments” bit, and I've been going around singing it for days.)

Back on topic, so, junior year, no tryout. Senior year, 2nd place, definitely got to try out. I think there were four regions in the area – so 16 1st altos tried out and there were six spots. (And there were, I don't know, three or four areas, maybe five, so the All-State Choir altogether was pretty big.) It wasn't terrible odds, but it certainly wasn't a shoe-in either. (Let's see, if there were 5 areas, that would be 6x5 = 30 1st altos altogether, and then that times 8 would be 240 kids. That actually sounds about right. It was a big choir. But I wouldn't swear to those numbers.) And oh my god, I was so nervous. I can probably tell you without looking what most of the pieces were – and sing big pieces of them to this day. One was Brahms – a piece called "Nanie." "Auch das Schöne muss Sterben," was the beginning of the lyrics – everything beautiful must die, or something cheery like that. (I don't think Sterben is "die", though, it must be "fade" or something similar. I'm not stopping to google lyrics or I'll be here all day.) Another one was the finale from "The Gondoliers" - Gilbert and Sullivan. That one was a lot of fun. I think there might have been a Vivaldi piece, too.

I've always thought it was probably really good for me that I had to work at it to have any kind of success as a singer. Piano came pretty naturally to me; I didn't really have to work at it very hard. (I practiced a lot, but that was because I thought it was fun.) School mostly came easy to me, too. Singing didn't come so naturally.

Well, ok, let's cut to the chase, I'm letting this get too long. I was picked. I forget which chair I was, not 1st and not 6th, maybe 2nd or 3rd, I think. The judges complimented my German, which pleased me because I had dropped French, which I had been taking since 7th grade, and was taking 1st-year German my senior year. (It pleased my German teacher, too, when I told her.) Lord, I can't even imagine what hash most of those kids were making of that umlaut vowel in “schöne.”

I don't mean to make too little of this. Hell, it practically changed my life. I mean, not really, but it was a validation I'd never really had before, as far as the singing. (Wow, I could actually sing - what a concept. It only took me, what, six, seven years to figure that out.) Holidailies penguin



mellicious: pink manicure (Default)

April 2019


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