“new.bie” – noun, often attributive, meaning “newcomer” especially , a newcomer to cyberspace.
Newbie ponders the possibility for months, aligns the various childcare planets, still runs late, and shows up after the whole choir is assembled and Artistic and Musical Director Jen Rodgers Beach is nowhere to be found. This is already not going well. Is try-out really going to happen in front of the assembled choir, which includes music teachers and trained singers? Swear words come to mind, but um, it’s a church sanctuary. Moving on.
Newbie finds Jen, who has already been informed earlier by email about extreme nerves. “Please don’t take it personally if I don’t make eye contact.” Jen takes pity, and leads newbie to a scary large room with a ginormous organ thingy. (Did we mention that said newbie is neither a church-goer nor musically educated in any way shape or form – more on this later – and therefore given to descriptives such as “thingy”?)
Jen finds the several switches to turn on a light and said organ thingy. Newbie starts to wonder how graceless a dash for the exit might seem while Jen’s still turning on lights.
Newbie sings. And sings. And sings. “I see the mental anxiety, but your body and voice are actually quite relaxed!” says Jen, “That was an A flat. You’re a second soprano, with a nice fluty voice.” Hain? “Fluty, as opposed to reedy.” Okay, that description does actually make sense, lack of music education notwithstanding.
Newbie buys music from incredibly patient Mr. Foote, who finds change because newbie has none.
Newbie finally joins the choir. It’s a choir. Which means people do things together and are friendly. And everyone seems to have a ton of fun chatting, and there’s really good give and take between VCS Accompanist, Mark Vogel, Jen, and various choristers as people talk about the last event, Aesop’s, which was not only successful but just a lot of fun with Sabrina Mandell and Mark Jaster of Happenstance Theater.
Newbie begins to sing with the choir during warm-ups. The last choir experience – not including a week in grad school where classwork obliterated all other activity – was 6th grade. It’s been a long time but the warmth and joy of singing in a choir come right back. This is why we sing – to lose ourselves in music, to be part of a whole, to be happy in song. Oh yeah, and choirs are far more forgiving than the shower, where every flat note bounces right off a hard surface, thereby driving home any general lack of, say, talent. Unless you’re ridiculously loud and totally off key here, a misstep here and there doesn’t jar the ear. Because you’re surrounded by the voices that can sing, and the harmony that a choir produces.
The choir works through two pieces of the next concert. Newbie is coming face to face with the lack of musical know-how. “I’m gonna get kicked out …” mutters newbie. Fellow second soprano and VCS Board President Lisa Robinson says, “Oh no, that’s why we have 10 weeks to rehearse.” It’s hard work – for a newbie – exploring the intricacies of Clif Hardin’s “Timor Mortis Conturbat Me.” And that last high note is really impossible. This second soprano thing has got to be a mistake.
Practice ends, and the Jen and newbie discuss the upshot of open rehearsal.
Jen: “How’d it go?”
Newbie: “I love it, but I just can’t make that last high note.”
Jen: “But you’re a second soprano, why are you singing that last line?”
Newbie: “Aren’t I supposed to?”
Jen: “You’re a second soprano. Not a first.”
Newbie: “Uhm, uh, I don’t really know how to read music and I have no idea what all the notes mean. I’m just following along.”
Jen: “Ah, well, you’re a second soprano. So you just sing what’s on the second line with the swirly.”
Oh! Right then.
And so another newbie joins the choir.
VCS holds open rehearsal four times a year, in plenty of time for each performance. There have been plenty of newbies, and VCS continues to sound really good for a non-audition choir.
Our next performance is Clif Hardin’s Requiem, May 21, 2011. Open rehearsal for this event, our last of the 2010-2011 season continues for another two weeks.
As you can see, newbies are welcome.