It was a frigid, finger-numbing night, business as usual for Chicago in January. But this evening I did something highly unusual: I went to the first meeting of a community chorus group. I went there, not to listen to music, but to sing.
This wasn't just something outside the box for me. It was the equivalent to showing up for work naked. And being into it.
For years, I had been toying with the idea of choosing an activity from an array of adult education options, especially when a new season rolled around. My mailbox would fill up with catalogs from the park district and the local junior college.
That's when I would seriously think about attending a class. Cake Decorating. Jewelry Making. Floral Design. I would be mildly interested but not enough to inspire me to get off of the reclining couch and out from under my cozy afghan.
But a chorus group? Something about it spoke to me (or in this case, sung to me). I was in girls' chorus in high school and remember it fondly. Still, that experience had taken place more years ago than I care to admit, and the truth is I had passed up the opportunity to join the community chorus many times before.
But this time, feeling not exactly the winter blues but more like the winter blahs, I decided to give the group a whirl. There was no audition required. If there was, believe me, there was no way in hell I'd ever sign up.
I was told I could come to the first meeting without committing to it. It also didn't hurt that my friend Anna wanted to go too. It was the kick in the keister I needed to get my feet out the door. Plus, as it turns out, I found out singing in a chorus is actually good for you.
Understand: I have no illusions about becoming the next Lady Gaga, Rihanna or Beyonce. I don't want to be featured on "America's Got Talent." Even being a lounge singer in a suburban bar is, like, nowhere on my list. I simply like to sing, and the idea of doing it in a group appealed to me.
In the late 1970s, there was a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant in Chicago on Diversey called Lawrence of Oregano. For a while, it was THE hot place to go, and the wait time was often spectacularly long. But I didn't mind because a musician named Ronnie Rice performed there.
Ronnie was (and still is) a talented guy. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was in a group called The New Colony Six and he played lead vocals on hits such as "I will always think about you" and "Things I'd like to say."
At his Lawrence of Oregano gigs, he played all the rock and roll classics--not just The New Colony Six songs, and they were tunes that everyone knew by heart. Scores of strangers would sing along with Ronnie, and it was a blast.
That's the reason I joined the chorus group. I wanted to capture that feeling, that high again: the unabashed joy I felt singing with a crowd.
I'm not exactly an extrovert--far, far from it, but amazingly, I wasn't a basket case when I showed up for the choral meeting.
The director told us newbies to sit where our voice range fits best--with either the sopranos, altos, tenors or basses. I picked the altos, but I had no idea if I was actually one. We practiced five or six tunes which will eventually be part of a live concert performance taking place in late April.
If I thought this singing stuff was going to be a breeze, a belt-it-out-like-you-were-in-the-shower experience, boy, was I wrong. These singers harmonized. They sounded like angels.
Me? I can't read music and as I said, I have no fantasies about being a standout performer. In fact, my goal was the opposite. My mission was:
Not to suck. Or at least not to suck so much that anybody would notice.
OK, my mission was to have fun, too. And, oddly, I was okay if I was mediocre. After all, I just want to blend in, which seems like a good thing when you join a chorus.
There have been times in my life when I have worked hard, trying not only to do my best, but to be the best. Or if not the best, be really good. Most of the time that has worked out well for me. But there's something strangely freeing and well, just plain fun, knowing you're not the best at something and not attempting to be.
So the question now is: Will I continue? Will I sign up, pay the fee to join, commit to the weekly sessions and sing in the live concert? I think so.
I just found out I have to sing a solo in front of the chorus director which scares me more than if a live snake were to pop out of the microwave. Yes, I'm hoping I won't suck.
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