Sunday, December 19, 2010

With apologies to any singers, violinists, or fundamentalist Christians (though not really to you) out there

Warning: I am guilty of BUI (blogging under the influence) here, and I'm sure that if anyone actually bothers to read this, they will either be extraordinarily pissed off or think I am a blathering moron. Or both.

When I was in middle school (Hail, Tamanend, with your flag of blue and gold), music basically ate up my life. I had been playing piano since the age of 8, so by the time I was in 7th grade, I basically thought I was a prodigy (NB: I was not) based on the way people (read: everyone who was new to this stuff) treated me. We had two big Christmas concerts each year, and by the time 9th grade rolled around, I was in every single act on stage (except for 8th grade band), and I spent those evenings running back and forth from the bleachers to the stage to the piano--I believe my parents deemed one concert "The *insert my name here* Show."

Which wasn't true, of course, but it may have had something to do with why many of my peers hated me. Or it could have something to do with the fact that I was a stuck-up prig with a stick up her ass who was delusional about her own talent. But whatever. When you play the piano, the violin, eventually the viola, and you have a deep, manly, on-pitch voice that can carry the entire 8th grade alto section, public school music teachers are going to capture you, use you, and eventually suck the life blood out of you. That's just how it goes.

So when high school came, I didn't know what else to do with myself. I joined the choir, I bellowed in the alto section, and I accompanied on piano. Mr. T, my first choir teacher, was wise enough to not let me into the select ensembles, but when I switched schools, Cynthia, hellfire demon though she turned out to be, did let me in. Eventually, I was accompanying the choir on piano, I was the Alto II section leader, and I became the choir president. My best friends were all in choir, I was in District Choir, I was in Regional Choir (2 spots away from All-State!), my boyfriend was the lead Tenor I...I basically lived and breathed singing.

And when you've been so absolutely marinated in choir Kool-Aid for 5 years of your life, it's a rude awakening when you realize something...that you fucking. hate. choir. It's occurred to me that the only teachers I have ever truly disliked were my choir teachers--Lisbeth and Cynthia, to not use last names. I shared a mutual loathing with both of them by the time I graduated from my respective middle school and high school, and to this day, I have not forgiven either one of them for what they did to me or to my peers (though, at the age of 22, I should probably let it go).

So...I ask myself why...why is it, that when I attend a Christmas concert with the Washington Choral Society, I delight in hopping up for the singalong songs, I tap my feet, I sway back and forth, I love the whole atmosphere, and I love to sing?

I have come to two conclusions. 1) Choirs are fraught...FRAUGHT...with massive egos. The director, yes, that's a given, but also the singers. Especially the soprano section. Music is produced by people, and people (read: musicians) like to think that they're awesome and important, and for some reason, singers (read: sopranos) are the absolute worst of the lot. This is not as much of a problem with other groups. The orchestras I've joined have always been much calmer and less cutthroat--though, as a member of the viola section, I guess that's only fitting. Violins can be pretty awful, too. It's just something about singers. They (read: SOPRANOS) like to compete and out-wail one another, and it's just really annoying. The road to good music is not paved with egos.

2) To me, organized singing is much like organized religion. Just because you like to sing doesn't mean you need to join a choir. Just because you love God doesn't mean you need to join a church. Both environments tend to devolve into pissing contests where youeither sing better/love God more than the next person. And you're going to sing/shout Hallelujahs to prove it, dammit. Interesting parallel, actually, as I'm rather embittered towards the folks at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mechanicsville, PA (did that show up on Google? Should I type it again?) for many of the same reasons that I'm embittered towards choir. (Not all Christian churches fall under this criticism. Just the ones who peddle a "loving" Jesus but think that homosexuality is abnormal and actively try to suppress it within themselves and other people, who think people who have sex before marriage are evil and who believe that non-Christians are going to Hell and who go on missions trips to convert the heathens, however passive aggressive they might be about any of these things).

So. That all being said....I thought about auditioning for the choral society. Frankly, though, I don't think I can handle it.


  1. Haha! Despite your being guilty of a BUI with this post, and despite being a (very very amateur) violinist myself...I can't say I disagree with you on any of your points.

  2. 1. no evidence of BUI: where were the typos?

    2. your description of sopranos reminds me of rachel in glee.

    3. you should denounce those church folks to their faces. and record it. and then sell it to a local news network.

  3. 1. Evidenced by my widely painted proclamations denouncing everything ever. Drunk me is an excellent speller.

    2. See above.

    3. See above the above.

  4. Belatedly-- thanks. I feel very very similarly about choirs and such...I sing because I love it, but organized singing gets to me more often than not because it's about ANYTHING BUT singing for the joy of it.