The Missing Ingredient

Of course, in addition to the rediscovered joy of plugging myself back into musical theater, these past few months have also provided a forum to examine some things in need of release.

So tonight, I finally, fully, and formally resigned from the choir.

When all was said and done, there were a few different threads leading into the decision, some global insights about the genre of choral singing, and some things specific to the personality of this particular choir.

On the global front, the past few months have reminded me so, so strongly about how choral singing for me–however strongly I dedicated myself to it for these decades–has always been a consolation prize for not having musical theater as an option in my life. The two months I was simultaneously attending show and choir rehearsals made that contrast crystal clear for me. However much I enjoy classical music and choral music, I have never had one iota of the level of affection for that repertoire as I do for the Broadway canon.

There were a number of years that canon felt unavailable to me. First, attending a women’s college meant that the grand old Broadway musicals weren’t really part of the theater arts schedule. Then, the Philly theater scene is so rich with strong, professional companies that it felt as if there was no room for someone like me, with a lot of love but a generally mediocre talent, to get cast in anything.

In retrospect, that may have been a hasty conclusion. I know of at least one Philly friend who stage managed a production or two on top of her day job, so it’s possible that had I been more open to backstage roles I could have been a part of Philly’sd theater scene. But back then I was caught up in my own limited story about needing an onstage part for me to feel creative satisfaction.

Now  I’m up here where the vibrant theater scene is community theaters rather than professional one. Also, after Into the Woods, I’ve broadened my perspective to understand how enriching it can be to be in the wings on the production team of a show. Adding those two things together, I kinda think that I can likely have as much theater in my life as I want to. Which then begs the question of why I would want to continue devoting time and energy to something (choral singing) that doesn’t bring me the same sort of joy.

And then there’s the specific personality of this particular choir. I’m trying to say this in a way that doesn’t make anyone wrong, but there’s just generally a mismatch between the conductor’s style and my own needs & preferences as a singer. The conductor loves Baroque and Classical textures, which means he doesn’t want a lot of vibrato. He’s also incredibly exacting in how he works to shape the choral instrument in every way: diction, dynamics, tuning, timing, what have you. And I have a deep intellectual respect for those efforts and preferences. I’ve studied the classical repertoire (especially the Baroque era) deeply enough to understand why he wishes such precision and such a vibrato-free texture. Also, I honestly think that his exacting nature is rooted in a deep desire that this choir create exceptional music in their concerts.

walk away try harderBut those levels of intellectual understanding and admiration do nothing to add to my level of emotional satisfaction from the choral-singing experience, which has been pretty darn low ever since October or November. My voice naturally tends to vibrato, and half the  tuning/timing corrections the conductor wants to scold us for are things so subtle that I can’t even hear them. So to work so damn hard to make my voice into something it’s not and to drill corrections I can’t hear as any different from my mistakes….

It’s not a recipe for fun. Not even that joyful hard-work kind of fun I was writing about last night.

So I’m out.

I think somewhere I’ve seen a quote about how the truest markers of what makes your life aren’t actually the ingredients you use to build it, but instead the ingredients you choose to let go of and DON’T use as building materials. I think there’s something to that.


Image credit: SayingImages.

One thought on “The Missing Ingredient

  1. Yea Girl!!! I’m so proud of you for taking that leap of love. I let go of a project I’d been trying to carve into something I could do this past week too. And it felt equally as good. And backstage is still theatre (says one who spent years in community theatre) and the people are still great to work with. Have fun. Lots of fun!


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