Saturday, March 05, 2016

On trying again...

I've meant to write about this a few times, but I have been paralyzed by wanting to explain perfectly, so I haven't made a start. I give up. It won't be perfect, but here goes. :)

I'm singing again.

I was raised by an opera singer. Mom has a M.A. in Vocal Performance from Cincinnati College Conservatory, and she was a coloratura soprano before I was born. She sang lead roles in operas, including the Queen of the Night from Mozart's "The Magic Flute." I've heard recordings, and I remember flipping through her photo albums of performances, watching her strike a dramatic pose in flamboyant costume on stage, her mouth formed for an impressive high B.

Now, this means that I was a classically trained singer's child. :) My brother and I sat with her at the piano while she taught us to sight read music. We were blessed to live near the well ranked music school where she got her undergraduate degree, and there was a really good children's choir in town, so we both joined when we were old enough. I sang in that choir from ages 10-18. I went to international children's choir festivals, and I was a street urchin in the "La Boheme" chorus and a shepherdess for "Ahmal and the Night Visitors". When I went to college, I joined the choir.

Then I got married and started moving around, and singing in a choir just didn't seem to be something I could find time for anymore. The babies started coming (thank the Lord), and I woke up one day and realized it had been about 15 years since I'd sung classical music.

I have a sweet friend from my Mothers of Preschoolers days who sings classical music, and I was watching her on Facebook talking about singing in an opera chorus, and something just snapped in me, I think. I realized that I didn't want to let this part of who I am just die away from neglect. My youngest is now 4, and it suddenly dawned on me that I might be able to rehearse in the evening for the first time in years.

I contacted my friend, and she suggested that I try out for the choir that sings with our symphony. That sounded totally intimidating. (I suspected it would probably be full of musical professionals, and I think it is.) She said the director was really kind and encouraging, so I contacted him, and I went for an audition last September.

I sang a bit of an old choir piece a cappella. I did some sight singing, and he had me vocalize to assess my range. He told me that I needed to "get the cobwebs out." He also told me to see a voice teacher a couple of times and come back and re-audition in January.

Yeah, I cried on the way home.

And then I realized that he hadn't told me "no." He'd given me clear and concrete things to do, and I could do them. So I pulled myself together, threw my shoulders back and put my chin up, and I called my friend (who is a voice teacher). She gave me a classical aria to learn to sing for my audition. This is it. (Not me singing.) I decided that she must have a lot of confidence in me. :)

I practiced a little each day for a few months, mostly during nap time or while David was putting the boys to bed. I saw my friend again for another lesson. And I scheduled an audition for January.

When I got there, I listened to the others auditioning in front of me through the sanctuary doors, and I wanted to just stand up and walk out. I'm sure I didn't only because I decided that this whole experience was about facing my fears and doing my best with the time and resources I had and leaving the rest to God.

When I walked down the aisle, the director recognized me. I told him what I'd been doing, and I sang for him. He said, "I think you still need a little work on your upper range.... so I'm making you a second soprano." And then he said, "Most people don't come back."

Every rehearsal feels like a gift to me. I still can't believe I get to make beautiful music with talented singers. Sometimes I feel like the worst one there, and I might or might not be, but I also suspect I might be the most grateful singer in that room.

I was afraid to try to do this, so afraid that God would say "no" to this desire.  But He said "yes" instead, and in that "yes," I feel like He said, "I see you, Ellen." Me. Not "mom" or "wife" or "homeschooler", but this person that He shaped through the experiences that she had as a child and the things He allowed her to do and be because of who she was born to and where she lived and the space that He created for the works that she would do.

My mom and dad and my husband and oldest son are coming to my first concert. I hope that Mom pats herself on the back. I can sing with this choir because she gave me the tools. I hope my 9-year-old boy hears Beauty and remembers the prayers he prayed for me when I wanted to give up. I want him to see that perseverance sometimes pays off in the ways we hope for.