Saturday, April 22, 2017

An Era of Music

A year ago I wasn’t even in a choir; now I’m running one.

It’s not my fault, really.

I know I have a tendency to want to be out front, and often throw myself into things with misguided enthusiasm, but this time I swore to myself it would be different. I joined a daytime choir, and made myself content with being one of a group, a cog in the wheel, and applied myself to learning to be the best choir member I could.

I liked it so much that, after a few months, I joined a second choir. I was really enjoying myself, singing in the more challenging daytime choir, and having a ball with the evening choir singing show tunes. It was a fun and exciting time.

Then the rumblings began.

Only a few months into the evening choir, it was announced that we were not making enough profit for the company that ran it. We were facing closure, but we were given another chance after the choir leader agreed to take a cut in pay to keep us afloat.

That worked for a while, but then the choir leader had to quit. Not having anyone to replace him, they told us, again, that they were going to close down the choir. The disappointment was palpable and, as we continued to sing for the remainder of the session, and the others came to terms with their loss, a dark thought entered my mind: “I could run this choir.”

The reason I thought something so undeniably insane was that, as a franchise choir, all I would have to do was lead the songs. All the admin, the venue, the bookings, the equipment, the song selections, the harmonies and how the songs were performed were decided by the couple who owned the choir. I knew I didn’t have the talent for that, but I did have a talent for teaching. All I needed to do was learn the songs the way they wanted them done and show the choir how to perform them.

Easy, right? Well, even I’m not that crazy; I knew it would be a challenge, but I was determined to do whatever it took to keep the choir from folding.

So that night I sent them an email volunteering to take on the choir. The next morning they answered and said, “Yes.”

I was equally delighted and terrified, but my wife had a more pragmatic thought: “Didn’t they even want to hear you sing?” she asked.

So, I met with the leaders. They liked me, they liked what I did, they tried me out with some live choirs; they were encouraged and they encouraged me. Then I had an intense session with the leader to go over the finer points of the songs. This, too, went well, and we parted looking forward to the upcoming rehearsal.

Then, at 10:30 that evening, I was fired. By text.

Okay, not exactly that dramatic. I got a text telling me to check my e-mail. I was fired in the e-mail.

This put me in a horrendous position. The choir’s hopes had been dashed, then they had been raised—by me—and now I was going to have to dash them again. It was a prospect I found unacceptable, and so—because I never let lack of qualifications or any relevant experience stand in my way—I decided to run the choir as an independent, community choir instead of a franchise.

This left me less than a week to put an entire choir program together, which is hard enough if you know what you’re doing, which, of course, I did not. Still, I managed to pull something together, and the first rehearsal went about as well as you could expect under the circumstances. But despite the few glitches and hiccups, everyone had fun and the prospects for next week look even better.

So now I’m a choir director, learning as I go, with—I hasten to add—some invaluable help from my daytime choir director, the ex-choir director and even the franchise owners (who have kindly loaned me the equipment I need).


I feel like I’m heading into a new era in my life. It’s rather scary, but as long as there’s music and singing, it should be all right.

This is more an orchestra than a choir joke, but it
sums it up nicely.