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Vaccination (with proof), masks and 6 ft distancing required for in person singing. Zoom singing offered as well.

Harmonizing with strangers

Uncategorized Aug 31, 2021

What if my singers, my friends, my most beloved choir members have become strangers?

It was a fleeting thought that came to me as I recently returned to Sing Portland! and in-person choir practice after 15 months of nothing but Zoom sessions — a thought that I couldn’t quite shake.

And it wasn’t just because we hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for so long. It was because we’ve all changed so very much in that time.

Oh sure, there was the whole global pandemic thing. That’s always going to change a person. But more than that, it was the first time meeting up with my singers since last summer, since the horrific murder of George Floyd and the events that unfolded after his death.

And that most certainly has changed us. All of us. In ways I can’t even pretend to understand yet.

For my part, I’ve been determined to become more “woke” (using that phrase, of course, in the most positive way possible) — and it has been confusing and illuminating in equal measures.

Take, for example, my Facebook group that, pre-COVID, was dedicated to coaching community choir leaders. Over the last few months I’ve noticed huge differences between British, Canadian, and American choir leaders when it comes to cultural appropriation.

In an effort to figure it out, I’ve been offering a weekly conversation about anti-racism, always ending the session with Maya Angelou’s quote: “Do the best you can until you know better”. I like to think we’re getting there, that we’re making the changes we all need to make, that we’re doing the best we can...that we’re doing better.

When I hosted an open mic night, half the songs were pleas for more justice.Would that have been the case this time two years ago? I don’t think so.

So yes, we’ve changed, and we’re still changing. And, yes, I have worried about coming back to in-person choir practice. I’ve worried about how I would face my white singers again. I’ve worried about saying the wrong thing. I still don’t have nearly as many answers as I’d like, or as I need. I have a lot more work to do, for sure.

But here’s what I have managed to figure out as we return to singing together.

When we sing together, we heal. It's not always easy. It's not always nice. But it's deep and moving and necessary. Because when you sing, particularly during complex times, you practice harmonizing with a stranger.

And that’s what we need right now: we need to harmonize with strangers.

We need to allow consonance and dissonance to dance with each other. We need the friction of the odd intervals so we can experience the stress…and the release.

We need to realize and remember that we’re not strangers after all. Not really.

If you’d like to harmonize with strangers — and watch as they become friends — we’d love to welcome you to Sing y'All.

Sigh... All classes and rehearsals will take place via zoom again in September and October.


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