As Jonathan and I prepare to begin our summer sessions of Encore “Rocks”, and look ahead at both the challenge and excitement of creating the musical experience, it’s easy to get caught up in the details:
- do we need to make a seating chart, now that the Clare choir has 75 people?
- what if the 25 extra copies of “Beach Boys” that are on backorder don’t get here in time?
- are we going to do lanyard name tags or stickers?
And all of those details are important―critical, even. Insufficient attention to those can have a negative effect on everyone’s experience, and can certainly distract from what we come together to do. So lots of our time in these weeks before the first rehearsal is at the service of making the rehearsals go smoothly, anticipating potential problems and assuring that they don’t happen, and figuring out how the “housekeeping” part of rehearsal can be quick and efficient―we want to get to the fun and singing!
But details can get a little tedious. So I’ve been paying attention to how Jon and I handle that. I’m, by nature, more of the detail-person―I derive far more satisfaction than Jon does in crossing things off my to-do list, in seeing the tidy stack of 100 music packets tucked in their box, in putting the 50th (and final) Tenor/Bass practice CD in the burner. Jonathan’s creative spirit is quickly bogged-down with checklists and invoices. He escapes into the music. His hands may be dutifully putting CD’s in sleeves, or typing a concert schedule, but the whole time, he’s humming, “It’s My Party”. His mind is far away from the details―he’s already at our final concert at Fourth Presbyterian, rock band and all!
And my mind? I’m thinking about what it is that we’re doing―not the music part (thankfully, Jon’s got that covered!) ―but the people part. I’m thinking back to the end of one of our Hinsdale rehearsals, last April. As singers left Rotary North, I was standing at the back of the room, dealing with a couple of questions, and I watched four of our singers gather at the door. They were waiting for a fifth singer, and were heading out to have lunch together. They chatted happily as they walked out, and I realized that until Encore brought them together in January, only two of them knew each other. The experience of coming together to sing and their wish to be part of a choir, had created some new friendships. How cool!
Encore is about great singing, for sure. Jonathan puts his heart and talents into making a quality rehearsal that’s also fun. He’s committed to teaching and helping everyone to grow as singers. The creative process, as expressed in the arts, is his passion. That’s certainly what Encore is about. And at the same time, it’s also about another kind of creating―the creation of community. We start out as (mostly) strangers; we come together every week with a goal of making music together; we share the hard work of hitting the right notes and blending our voices; we make mistakes and share in our mastery; we laugh together and give ourselves a “high five” after we finally conquer those tricky measures. And all the while, a connection is being woven, a bond is being formed. As we stand together week after week, literally sharing vibrations as well as sharing bits of our lives, we become knitted together. As you probably already know, much is written about the health benefits of choral singing, both physical health and mental health. Certainly much of that is a result of singing itself; breathing deeply, the good posture it encourages, the stretching we do in warm-up, etc.
And although less is written about it, and it’s certainly harder to document in a research study, the creation of community and the relationships that are made enhance our health as well. We humans are social beings; we depend on, and thrive on, our connections to each other. Last winter I heard a singer comment to her fellow soprano that coming to the 10:00 rehearsal was the first time she’d spoken with anyone that day. We need connection. We need to feel that we are not alone. So when I hear singers talking at our mid-rehearsal break, and they’re sharing photos of a new grandson, or asking how it went at the doctor’s appointment last week, or asking if someone has time to grab a cup of coffee after rehearsal, I am filled with joy. We’re creating many things, music for sure―and also joy and health and connections. So as I print out the 93rd name tag, my heart is full. That’s what this is all about.