Why I Sing

capriccio

Capriccio Columbus

In less than an hour, I leave for one of my favorite activities of the week–rehearsals with Capriccio Columbus. This is now my eleventh season of singing with this choral group and it continues to be one of the joys of my life. Why do I sing?

Fundamentally, singing reminds me that there is goodness and beauty in an ugly and sometimes evil world. Every time we come together to make music, we declare out loud what we intuit deeply in ourselves–that evil and ugliness cannot and will not have the last word.

Therefore, singing for me is not an act of escapism, of forgetting the hard things around us, but rather resistance, a form of declaration, of demonstration, that the deeper story of life is one of goodness, of truth, and of beauty. It is striking to me that civil rights marchers, and even those who grieved in Pittsburgh recently gave voice to their longings, their grief, and their prayers, in song.

Singing in a choral group is a living metaphor of our longings for a unity in the midst of diversity. The very nature of harmony is that different voices, different parts, when we are doing it right, blend together to make something far more beautiful and interesting than if all of us were singing the same note. If only we could figure out that a monotone society is no more interesting than a monotone choral group!

Making music involves every fiber of my being. We learned in a vocal workshop that we sing from the soles of our feet to the top of our heads. Not only does singing involve the whole body, it engages the whole mind. To focus on rhythms, notes, and words, to tempo and dynamics, and to do all of that at once uses every one of my ever-diminishing brain cells (although some research suggests that singing enhances brain function and forestalls some forms of dementia).

Every fiber of my being includes my soul, that inner, spiritual part of who I am. To sing well means to reflect on what we are singing, and how the music accentuates phrases and moods. To sing well is not just to be technically proficient, but to incarnate the music–to sing out of oneself and what that music has come to mean to us. If I am paying attention, music often speaks of realities beyond the rehearsal, beyond the concert, to the deepest thoughts about meaning, and love, and the transcendent.

Making music is handling particular pieces of music, noting with pencil particular directions for singing it, holding it in folders, doing all this next to others, some who sing your part, some who sing others. It is trying, and failing, and learning, particularly when we first read through new music. It is holding music at a certain level, high enough that you can glance over it to follow the leading of your director, who is trying to keep 80 plus people singing four to eight parts singing together. It is real, it is physical. It is active. There is nothing passive or virtual about it.

Singing is people. One makes friends, and begins to really care not only about the rehearsal but about job losses, deaths, babies, engagements, and weddings. In a world of increasing isolation, choral groups bring people from all kinds of backgrounds into what are often called “mediating institutions.” They stand between the isolation of our individual lives and the big impersonal institutions of modern society.

Well, it is about time for me to leave. For all these reasons, this is why I sing tonight.

3 thoughts on “Why I Sing

  1. Kirk Franklin – Why We Sing

    For some that don’t understand our purpose
    And may not understand our praise
    We as the family in Jesus name
    Would like to tell you the reason why we sing
    Family
    Someone asked a question
    Why do we sing
    When we lift our hands to Jesus
    What do we really mean
    Someone made we wonder
    When we sing our song
    At times we may be cryin’
    And nothings even wrong
    I sing because I’m happy
    I sing because I’m free
    His eyes are the sparrow
    That’s the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    For some that don’t understand our purpose
    And may not understand our praise
    We as the family in Jesus name
    Would like to tell you the reason why we sing
    Family
    I sing because I’m happy
    I sing because I’m free
    His eyes are the sparrow
    That’s the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    I give the praises to you
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    And when the song is over
    We’ve all said Amen
    And your heart just keep on singing
    And the song will never end
    And if somebody ask you was it just a show
    Lift your and a be a witness
    And tell the whole the whole world no
    And when we cross that river
    To study war no more
    We will sing our song to Jesus
    The one whom we adore
    I sing because I’m happy
    I sing because I’m free
    His eyes are the sparrow
    That’s the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Glory Hallelujah
    I give the praises to you
    Glory Hallelujah
    Your the reason why I sing
    Your the reason why I sing
    Your the reason why I sing
    Your the reason why I sing
    Your the reason why I sing
    Your the reason why I sing
    Oh I love you
    I love your name Jesus
    Glory Hallelujah
    For the rest of my life Jesus
    You’ll be the reason why I sing

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