Dec. 7th, 2007

mellicious: pink manicure (buffy quote - high school)
"There is not any musicke of instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made of the voyces of men; where the voyces are good, and the same well sorted and ordered."
-- more William Byrd (and so is the title - if you're translating, you shouldn't impart any actual religious significance to my choice of it, it has to do with singing, to me, not religion!)


Maybe that's why I liked choir so much. Even nowadays when I rarely sing, every once in a while I feel it - there's nothing like singing in a group, when something beautiful comes out of your collective throats. It's - joy. That's the only way I can think of to describe it. There really isn't any musicke of instruments comparable to it at all.

So I was playing the piano well enough to get sort of a reputation for it in our little town, even though I was only 13 or so - I won a couple of awards, I was accompanying both the school choir (some of the time) and the church youth choir (full-time). But it was the singing that I loved. I guess I was a decent singer - I was in the top choir (there were three, in junior high), but I wasn't great. When we auditioned for high school choir, though, I squeaked into the top choir again. They only took 4 freshman, but I was one of them. I think they let me in because I could sight-read. And I was "musical" - that was about the best compliment I ever got concerning my voice in those days. (It's also possible that they knew that I played the piano tolerably well. I have no idea if that figured into it or not.)

Just about anybody who's ever sung in any sort of serious way can tell you about the breathing issue. For singing, you need to breathe from the bottom of your lungs, which isn't what people do naturally. What a normal person does is breathe from the top - you're breathing sort of shallowly, basically, and only using maybe half of your real lung capacity. So to sing well, you have to learn to use the whole thing. And I had a terrible time figuring out how to do it. It was one of those things where I knew what they were trying to get me to do - it was just actually doing it that was the problem. And if you can't breathe correctly, your voice sounds all breathy and childlike, and that's certainly not what you're trying to achieve. (Those children that you see in singing competitions from time to time? the ones that sound like Mariah Carey? That's probably the main thing about them - they've gotten the knack of breathing right. In my opinion, they're also mostly massively oversinging, but that's another issue.) And it took me another two years to figure it out. All through my freshman and sophomore year, the choir director would tell me, "Now if you just knew how to breathe..."

Meanwhile, I adored choir. It was pretty much all I cared about in high school. I made decent grades generally but if it didn't intersect somehow with choir, I ignored it as much as possible. (Things like languages were what intersected - you can sing in French and German, after all. Math - another story.)

And I had sort of an on-again, off-again relationship with church choir. I had already pretty much developed my aversion to organized religion by this time (all that enforced time at church had a lot to do with that) and plus, I was certainly a bit snobby about church choir's standards, too. But in the summer after my sophomore year in high school, I went to church music camp in the wilds of West Texas for a week - somewhere way out there near Marfa, I think. I spent most of the rehearsals concentrating on my breathing, I remember - and somehow, during that week, it finally clicked. And after that I didn't have any problems with it. So I actually owe church choir camp a share of the credit for the success I had after that. (I'll talk about that part of it later.)



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