When I was growing up, music was an integral part of my being. I started piano at age 3, clarinet at age 10, and consistently sang in school vocal groups. As a teenager, I did music theory on Mondays, piano lessons on Tuesdays, clarinet lessons and clarinet ensemble on Fridays, vocal group once a week, an hour of piano practice every day, clarinet practice a little less frequently, and I would sing to my mum the songs of her choosing whenever she chauffeured me around town.
I loved it.
(Well, mostly I loved it. Sometimes I wanted to throw tantrums and quit everything. But mostly I loved it.)
Don’t lie. You want my seven-year-old style.
However, after completing AMEB Grade 8 in piano in Year 12 and making a CD at the same time with my clarinet ensemble, I started a high-pressure degree at university and music fell by the wayside. Suddenly, everything was about studying theoretical constructs rather than symphonies. Durkheim, Giddens, Bourdieu, and Veblen became the masters of my brain, replacing Debussy, Bach, Sondheim, and Mozart.
I think a part of me went missing.
I tell you this as a way of explaining why the gospel choir I’ve joined for (alas! perhaps only) six weeks is making such a difference to my sense of self and well-being. I already mentioned the Strange Weather Gospel Choir, Eric Dozier, and my utter glee about both in this post, but I can’t help gushing again.
Because every Wednesday night, when I walk into the rehearsal room and chat with the fellow music devotees I’ve met, my heart lifts.
Because every time we run through our warm-up songs, the roiling mercury of anxiety in the pit of my stomach disappears.
Because Eric Dozier is the epitome of inspiration, and his commitment to sharing the stories and power of gospel, while also making us laugh, is beautiful.
Sometimes music is pain. And that’s why I look like I’m crying while singing in this photo.
Because gospel movement is all about your hips and your bum, not your head. I, for one, benefit from forgetting about my head sometimes.
Because I keep raw vegan mango sunflower balls in my purse to pop for an energy boost mid-rehearsal, so that I can keep singing with everything I have.
Because last Wednesday, when we 80-odd Canberrans were working on a song that incorporates the lyrics “Tell ole Pharoah / Let my people go”, Eric stopped us to explain that this sentiment isn’t just about religion or a singular historical moment. He told us to think of our own personal obstacles, of that which is holding us back from what we want to achieve, and to sing the song to that Pharaoh, that personal, private demon.
Everyone sang with more strength, after that.
I wish I still owned lacy fold-down socks.
Music can lift us up. It can make us feel stronger, happier, and healthier. For some, such soul-strengthening music takes the form of Lady Gaga, death metal, Broadway musicals, organ concertos (hi dad!), or even, perhaps, Rolf Harris (I’m Jake the Peg, diddle-iddle-iddle-um…)
For me, it’s the music I’m a part of, the music I can contribute to, that reminds me life doesn’t have to be a narrow, grey rectangle of routine, suffocating, self-focused activities.
Even if it is your fault that I can’t sleep on Wednesday nights because I’m too busy singing to myself in bed like a crazy lady.
Ah well. Might as well use the night-time hours to make another batch of chocolate caramel slice then.
P.S. Canberrans! It looks like I’ll be performing with this choir at a concert at the end of March. You want to come along, don’t you? Sure you do! Sure you do!