Why I Sing in Choirs

Posted by on Jul 11, 2013 in Creativity, Joy | 2 comments

Why I Sing in Choirs

This quote appeared on Facebook today:

1x1.trans Why I Sing in Choirs

By the time I got to the end, I realized I’d been nodding my head. “…so you will be human.” Yes. “So you will recognize beauty.” Yes. “So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world.” YES YES OMG YES. (And I am not even a music teacher.) I’ve talked here a good bit about my quest to overcome stage fright, but I haven’t really talked about the fact that my performance anxiety confounds many people because I’ve spent my whole life singing in choirs. “But, but…” they say. “You’ve been singing in front of people your whole life!” “You’re right,” I reply, reminding myself that people who don’t do this at all don’t get the critical, and rather obvious difference. “But in a choir, I am surrounded by like-minded friends, and if I screw up they probably won’t (and vice versa). By myself, I might as well be standing up there naked with a bullseye on my head, because if I screw up, it’s entirely down to me and everyone—especially me—knows it.” Beyond the cover of other singers, the experience of choral singing is completely different. It’s tough, for one, to sing four-part harmony on your own. And singing in groups, according to brand-new research, is really good for you (though choral singers could have told you that already). What keeps me coming back to choirs is what happens when you get a group people in tune with each other and a great piece of music. When you are to the point where the conductor could be beamed up to the Enterprise halfway through and there’d still be no stopping this juggernaut from reaching its destination, the music doesn’t just come out of you; it’s not just sound anymore. It’s a living presence that can only be born into the world through a community. For example, there’s a section of the “Agnus Dei” from the Fauré Requiem that makes me feel like I’ve just been picked up and am floating along somewhere incredibly dream-like. I’m always terribly disappointed when those few measures end. (They start at 2:00 in the video below, and go on for a little over a minute.) That, my friends, is the kind of moment I think of when I read, “So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world.” Some people find God/the Great Spirit/the Universe/Allah in a sacred text, or in nature. I find that sense of the infinite, that majesty and wonder, in that moment. (Fauré reputedly was an atheist, but you can’t convince me he wasn’t tapping into something divine.) If you’ve never tried it, I highly encourage you to give it a whirl. If singing definitely doesn’t work for you for some reason, I encourage you to hop into a creative activity that does, because I promise there’s something out there that speaks to your soul the way that singing speaks to mine. If you’re not sure how to find it, you know where I am! Image courtesy Andrea Pineda via Creative Commons


  1. Love this Nancym and totally agree. I sing four-part a capella and the buzz in the room when the chords lock is out if this world. There’s something unique about the human voice that creates harmonics, a note additional to the ones that are actually being sung, that instruments don’t do. It’s thrilling to be a part of that. Singing, music, art, it’s what makes us fully human :-)

    • Yes!! It’s not just the harmonies—it’s the way they vibrate right through your being. I’m not sure it can be replicated in any other way. And I absolutely agree that without art, whatever form it might take, we are diminished.

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