Tuesday, February 20, 2007

no church for me!

I drank a tall coffee at 4 p.m. yesterday, and at least partly as a result lay in bed from about 1:30-3 a.m., unable to fall asleep, with my mind buzzing in circles such that I'm surprised it didn't wear a hole in my skull. I thought about many, many things, over and over again. I may even have thought about those things somewhat productively, if obsessively.

One significant realization I came to was that if at all possible, I do not want to sing in a church choir next year. However much I love singing earnestly in English - and I really did love the set of Howells motets my choir sung this past fall, which were about the most High Church you could get - I'm not religious. I have zero motivation to wake up Sunday mornings and put on two robes and sit still during the sermon. Let alone pretend as though I feel like part of the congregation, which we were occasionally expected to do at my last church.

Easy - just don't sing in a church choir, you say. But in New York, at least, it's one of the easiest ways to join a really excellent group. My other options are a mixed bag. There are a few of groups whose conductors I know, and which I think I'd have a pretty good chance of successfully auditioning for. The more appealing options, repertoire-wise, are the more exclusive ones; I'm still going to audition, I think, and at least see where I stand. One of my goals in vocal training was to feel comfortable singing with better and better choirs and chamber ensembles; if I audition for these groups and make it, I'll know one thing, and if I don't, I'll know another.

7 comments:

SK said...

You can do it! Break free of the opiate of the masses, etc etc, whatever, I'm sure Mom and Dad would approve of you leaving the church. :)
But honestly, the last time I heard you sing was way too long ago, and even then, your voice was getting really, really good. So I think these fancy New York groups would be stupid not to take you.

Arbitrista (formerly Publius) said...

It makes me wonder how many people go to church just for the company.....

kermitthefrog said...

Of the people I know who attend religious services, a whole bunch of them have shopped around until they found communities that they felt comfortable with and welcome in. That's not to say that they attend just for the company, but it's certainly an important part... same with the choirs I've belonged to.

Jane Dark said...

Eek! I commented here earlier, and Blogger ate it.

And I agree that the company is hugely important -- I think that the non-religious half of my choir would agree, too. Some of them have been with us for over ten years, even though we've never been able to pay much.

I can understand why you feel pressured, though. One of our choristers eventually converted and joined the church; another has become active in social planning. Neither were at all pressured to do so, as far as I can see, but both reminded me that it must be weird at times to straddle the boundary of being present but not fully participatory.

kermitthefrog said...

I always wondered whether I made religious members of the choir feel uncomfortable when I didn't recite the Lord's Prayer along with them, for example. The most awkward I've felt has been at a church here where I occasionally sing. The entire choir goes up to the rail for Communion, and since I don't take Communion (the only one, as far as I can tell), my option is to kneel and cross my arms, to signify that I'd rather receive a blessing. But even getting blessed makes me feel strange: I'm participating in a ritual that everyone but me (the priest, the congregation) believes does something, while I don't. Plus the blessing takes longer than simply taking bread, so I feel like I'm holding up the line...

Jane Dark said...

Oh my. I wish, though I respect your desire to find a non-church choir, that you were here. We sing in a loft at the rear end of the sanctuary, with chairs where we sit, and a couple of pews behind them. When we aren't singing, some choristers are discretely reading in the pews; a couple go downstairs during the sermon, so they can chat.

Only the people who are partaking in Eucharist go down to the rail; the others just wait. Occasionally one of the secular choristers will go down for a blessing, and there are some who participate in the Eucharist at Christmas and Easter -- but there's no pressure. In your situation, I think I *would* feel a litte uncomfortable.

I begin to see, though, why our posts are so parallel. Besides not singing, I feel like I stick out because I'm always standing by the window vents, instead of doing what everyone else is doing -- and when there are processionals, I scurry outside to avoid the censer.

kermitthefrog said...

That's definitely a situation I'd feel more comfortable with. Both church choirs I've primarily sung with have the choir sit up in the stalls at the front, so we're always visible and can't read or anything, but I've also sung up in the loft, and that's a lot better.

Wish I was there too!

And yes, it does seem like we're both concerned (in different ways) with being anomalies in a place that emphasizes community and communal sharing of ritual.