In praise of singing with others

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

— Wm. Congreve

Where do you sing with others?

I don’t mean singing with your ear buds — that looks weird and you’re probably off key and sound like you’re in pain. I mean intentional, with other people, out-loud singing.

Sing in a choir or other vocal group? We overlook the power that group singing has on hearers. I sing in The Joyful Noise, a men’s quintet. We sing gospel and spirituals with a smattering of patriotic songs. We sing for free, whomever will have us. We sing in memory care facilities and retirement homes. Our audiences sing with us. Memory care facilities are the hardest, but, even there, the music brings people back to themselves.

There’s a wide choice of public choirs in the Rogue Valley. Choose a group that fits your comfort level. There are no-audition ‘y’all come’ choirs, like the Peace Choir. Church choirs welcome newcomers of all levels. Or, you can find higher levels, all the way to the Rogue Valley Chorale, a high-quality, audition-only choir. You can find a group that sings your brand of music somewhere in the valley. Just sing!

It’s not just the singing that ‘soothes (your) savage breast.” Joy comes from the camaraderie with the people around you. Satisfaction comes from developing from ‘I’ll never be able to sing this’ to hearing the harmony — in the music and in your soul. I usually finish singing with a smile on my face. Friendships deepen from post-rehearsal gatherings.

Do you fear standing in front of an audience? Choir is a great place to be anonymous, everyone looks alike. And those times when I know I’ve blown it, another choir member will throw an arm around me and say, “Ah, it wasn’t that bad, we all missed one or two.”

I think hymn singing in church is one of the best places to sing with others. It doesn’t matter if you can sing well, the whole company lifts the individual parts. There are pieces of music that pierce our defenses. Maybe it’s the lyrics that lift you past yourself, maybe it’s a tune that carries you back to a significant moment in life. That’s the power of singing.

We are bombarded with perfection in our culture. Electronic editing gives us flawless performances. It can make singing with others daunting. But there is a huge difference between being entertained by A-List voices and being part of the voice ourselves. When was the last time you experienced the power of singing our National Anthem instead of shuffling your feet as some professional sang and you waited for “Play Ball?”

Give singing with others a try. Give it three or four tries, or you’ll bail on the “too new, too scary” response. Then, let me know how the power of singing with others has touched you, OK?

John Maas lives in Eagle Point.

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