Trail of a Heart 15 – Diva in the House

 In Autobiography

Simultaneously, I was involved in choir, success in which helped me deal with the drama disappointment. When I first went out for choir, I was supposed to be in the lowest level group, as the novice I was. That year the beginning choir was only offered the same class period as drama. I had drama experience coming into high school, and was eligible to be in the production drama class.

My beloved drama Director spoke to the Music Department chair, Mr. Freitag, and requested that I be allowed to be in Acapella Choir which was offered an hour I could take it. That was the highest level of the choir program and could be entered only after starting in the earlier preparatory choirs, and passing an audition. The two teachers had a good rapport and were supportive of each other’s programs. Thankfully for my budding passion for both singing and acting, I was able to move into this advanced choir. I couldn’t believe it.

I was certainly ill prepared. The closest I had come to reading music was taking violin lessons in a school strings program in elementary school. Everyone in Acapella could not only read music, but were able to do harmonies, hear their own part with others all around them, and were mostly at least a year older than I. I tried not to be overwhelmed, but just paid close attention.

It was challenging as I had to get creative when we were learning a new piece. I made up my own notation for whether notes were high, higher, low, lowest, sustained and for phrasing. I still use it. Since that time I have taken piano lessons and helped two of my kids study violin from early ages, but have still not managed fluency in reading music.

Three of the greatest moments I had being in this choir were poignant and very fulfilling. The first was being asked to be the speaker to introduce our pieces when we went into schools and other venues to perform. I still remember a song we were doing about a train trip. I came up with a catchy way to get the kids’ attention, which was thrilling for me. I still recall the first line of my speech, “Do you want to go for a train ride?”

The second accomplishment was being able to perform at a choir tournament and having our choir receive rave reviews by the songwriter himself, who happened to be in the audience. Exhilarating! That was the caliber of this group.

For me the most exciting was to hear my voice as it twirled in with the others, finding its niche. Since we performed without benefit of any instruments, by definition, other than our voices, we had to be spot on individually so we would sound great collectively. Even though I never fooled myself that I was up to the quality of my choir mates, I know I learned so much and felt such personal accomplishment. Of course, I had to fantacize that I would become a great Diva, doesn’t everyone?

I guess the most memorable performance of that year was our last, when we sang at the graduation ceremony. The song still rings in my head and heart, “Climb Every Mountain.” This was 1961. I was in the class of 1962, but as I sang to those seniors who were leaving, I knew that I was leaving too, without fanfare. There was no way to stop the flow of tears. I had decided to get married at the grand old age of 17 to an older guy who pretty much literally swept me off my feet. I was leaving school a year early being one semester of English short of graduating a year early. But I get ahead of myself.

 Watch for the next installment.

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