Our school was so small that we didn’t have try-outs for chorus. If you wanted to join, you were in. This worked out great for me.
My tone deaf voice wedged itself into the melodies of our junior chorus. As a freshman, I automatically moved up to enhance the senior chorus.
While practicing for our Christmas concert, everyone except Beverly, a senior, petered out in the middle of a troublesome passage. Mr. Binns was impressed and gave her a solo. This lesson was not lost on me.
I sang loud and clear for the next four years, with no solo sent my way. One of my best friends, Marcia, had many solos. She also had a beautiful voice.
Marcia sang high soprano while I got pegged as an alto. This put a cramp on visiting during rehearsals. I believed I could sing soprano just as well as I sang alto. I was correct, but not for the reason I thought.
One day we had a substitute instructor, Mr. Pederson, so I snuck over to the high sopranos. Marcia stood in the front row since she was short. Much taller, I hunched beside her so I wouldn’t block the girls behind us.
We sang halfway through our first song and were stopped abruptly.
“Stop! Stop,” cried Mr. Pederson. “Everyone, repeat the previous stanza.”
I sang with gusto, hoping to finally be rewarded with a solo.
“Now, just the high sopranos,” he instructed.
I joined in as the high sopranos sang. Mr. Pederson singled out each row of high sopranos, beginning at the top row. He worked his way down to the front row and narrowed his search to Marcia (our soloist) and me. Based on snickering from the remaining chorus members, I became suspicious and no longer wanted to be discovered.
Marcia and I sang the passage.
“Aha,” he proclaimed. “There is the problem! You (pointing at me, not Marcia) are better suited for the alto section. And please sing a bit softer.”
I’m not sure why he went to such elaborate lengths to pinpoint my voice, but he appeared to derive great pleasure from it. Mr. Pederson was the cat, I was the mouse.
Mr. Pederson eventually took over chorus duties permanently while Mr. Binns handled orchestra. Once again, we encountered a troublesome passage in our Christmas concert music.
“This time I want you to sing the line at the top of your lungs,” he commanded. “Sing so the angels in heaven can hear you.”
Mr. Binns opened a side door and entered the auditorium at the exact moment we loudly belted out with gusto, “Here comes the king of the Jews!”
Mr. Binns is Jewish.
After his initial shock, Mr. Binns collapsed on a folding chair and laughed until tears ran down his eyes. Our entire chorus erupted hysterically. Poor Mr. Pederson wasn’t sure whether to laugh or tender his resignation.
It was difficult singing the phrase during our concert without cracking up at the memory, especially when our conductor, Mr. Pederson, couldn’t suppress his own grin.
Lesson learned: Laughter is always the best medicine as long as everyone is laughing together.
Lesson not learned: I continued believing I had a lovely voice for many years.
Now it’s your turn: Do you have a singing anecdote?
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