It’s like I said I’d joined the space programme. The reaction to my joining a choir has been universal -
You joined a choir. A choir? Can you even sing?
Yeesss, I can sing! Of course I can sing. Why would someone who can’t sing join a choir?
I’ll tell you why – because they imagine they can sing. It only took one group vocal warm up session for me to realize I had the lung capacity of an emphysemic pygmy marmoset. Inhaling up to a count of ten, holding the air intake for a further ten counts and exhaling for ten left me not only red faced but decidedly bluish about the lips.
I joined after attending my niece’s high school production of Jesus Christ Superstar – the Arena Gymnasium spectacular. Traditionally I shy away from other people’s children’s school musicals – I’ve always felt that no one other than immediate family should endure what are generally discordant offerings from pubescent performers. But I had fond memories of JCS – the original Rock opera in the late 70’s – and I wanted some fond memories of my niece – so I went.
I’d fortified myself with a glass of robust red before hand and was prepared to squirm uncomfortably in the plastic seat for a couple of excruciating hours. But bloody Norah, it was actually quite good!
I mean, it was a bunch of school kids, but having grown up watching a plethora of Television talent programmes, they were working it like professionals with their hypercardioid microphones and funky dance moves.
I was front row right at the end of the hired stadium seating where most of the cast were entering and exiting. This ensured I was regularly knocked as the chorus tumbled like excitable puppies into the performance space. An over zealous leper, having gotten into character well off stage, mistook my black clad arm for a supporting rail, as he limped out like an extra from The Walking Dead. Bless him if my accompanying shriek didn’t faze him at all though – an absolute pro!
I drove home bellowing out the entire musical catalogue at the top of my unexercised lungs and it felt fantastic. I really enjoyed singing.
The next day I shared my operatic driving revelation with a friend as we power ambled around Albert Park Lake.
You should join my choir, the Decibelles!
So I did.
The first question from Nick, our Choirmaster, a man who fairly oozes good will towards all, was what do you sing?
Ooh, I don’t know…anything really, I probably draw the line at Goth Rock and I’m not sure about yodeling…
No, I mean what is your voice type?
Um…ok, not high. Definitely not high. Years of yelling at kids, red wine and coffee have well and truly roughened up these old vocal chords.
Slightly pained expression from Nick.
I’m guessing from listening to you talk you’re an alto. We could do with more altos.
So with three weeks to learn ten songs and some awkward accompanying choreography, I am preparing for the first two serious concerts of the year.
We had an official first outing a week ago at the Dolly Diamond show. Dolly is a hilarious drag act with stupendously good legs. She generously and whole-heartedly endorsed us as we performed three songs to an enthusiastic audience.
Inaugural performance nerves aside, the show was also being filmed and blinded by television lighting meant a mere quarter of the actual choir could eyeball Nick as he valiantly conducted us left of stage.
Surrounding by electrical cabling and crammed into an area the size of a picnic rug ensured our dance moves were somewhat hampered. As the entire front row gracefully raised their arms in a salute to Amy Winehouse, the rest of us bashed the woman before us in the back of the head before eventually settling into a kind of penguin flap. I think Amy would have enjoyed that.
Back at rehearsals it was generally agreed that the evening had been a blast and we are all super pumped about the upcoming full performances. A quick summary, however, of our choral attire highlighted the delineated nature of choir cultural politics. The sopranos are thoroughbreds – skittish, excitable and preternaturally obsessed with the specifics of hosiery. An anxious discussion surrounding denier and the banning of leggings clearly touched a chord with the mezzos (choir’s middle child?) who tentatively joined the fray with their own leg wear concerns. Meanwhile, the altos are just waiting for their cue to sing and quietly cursing that sheer pantyhose require leg shaving.
I’m looking forward to tunelessly belting out the numbers I remember and artfully lip synching next to the genuinely talented altos beside me. The dance moves, however, are another thing entirely – is there any foolproof way to distract the audience from my complete lack of coordination and rhythm? Please – I have a week.