Yesterday I had the privilege of playing the organ for services at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury, MD. This is the second time this month I have had the opportunity to accompany a choir that I had only just met. 45 minutes before the service began I sat down at the piano in front of a small group of complete strangers. First names were quickly exchanged and just as quickly forgotten. Still, I felt so comfortable in this situation, it was as if I had known them for some time. I warmed them up by having them softly sing a familiar hymn and then rehearsed the two motets that their director had taught them. They were fine singers that needed no help from me other than my keyboard work and a nod or two of my head. And so I was able to listen and marvel at this group of singers.
Singing in the choir is an extraordinary experience. Unlike solo singing, voices combine in beautiful teamwork, they contribute to a consummate sound that fills space with something uniquely human and nearly divine, something beautiful that wasn’t there a moment before. Group singing creates harmony. Voices are similar to single blossoms or even buds that when combined with other flowers create breathtaking arrangements. And also similar to flowers, a single voice doesn’t have to be perfect to fit into the arrangement. A short piece of florist’s wire can correct a bent stem, and a little coaching on the shape of a vowel sound can alter the pitch and timbre just so.
Science says that singing in a choir releases endorphins and reduces stress. Perhaps that's so. But I’m convinced that singing in a choir contributes to the betterment of all involved. Singers enjoy fellowship, camaraderie, purpose. Audiences are ennobled, satisfied, even inspired. And in my experience from yesterday, after one hour of music and worship, strangers left as friends. - WRT