Music Behind the Madness
March 25, 2016
I can see two new Kindles, boxed; a cut glass relish tray; six scarves, hand knitted; a fancy black teapot; a form from a fellow with a vacation place in New Hampshire; gift cards from Trader Joe’s; and a basket of children’s books. And that’s without turning my head. I’m not a hoarder—it’s auction season.
The donation deadline for the Fairfax Choral Society silent auction gala is just days away, and the goods are piling up faster than I can enter them in my spreadsheet, write descriptions (“Treat yourself to a new hair style for summer!”), photograph them, and send the info to my volunteers who upload it online. It’s a ton of work, and a lot of it is fussy. And annoying. Not to mention that I’ll be working on the setup for the event and being the point person for the college kids I booked to perform Shakespeare improv that night.
It makes me crazy, so why do I do it?
It’s partly for selfish reasons: I love to sing and I love to sing with the Fairfax Choral Society. My chorus needs money and I am good at cheerleading people into giving, organizing stuff, making it look enticing, and cajoling my friends to attend.
But it’s also for bigger reasons. I want other people to have the chance to sing great music with excellent conductors. I want adults (120 of us at last count) to have a symphonic chorus that works on pieces like Aaron Coplands’s very tricky “In the Beginning.” I want kids across my county (250+ at the moment) to get to learn about singing and sing in a strong chorus, near their home, that challenges them and plants the seeds of love for music. Music is good for us—that’s a fact.
I have always been a singer. I can still whip out the harmonies to songs from fourth grade—“I hear a forest praying,” anyone? The best singing time of my life was my years at the College of Wooster, where I sang with the Wooster Chorus (that’s some of us, above). We rehearsed four afternoons a week, sang everything from memory (trust me, when you rehearse four times a week, you know that Bach cantata cold), and spent spring breaks on tour. Rather than partying in a beach town, we rode buses, sang in churches and concert halls, and slept at the homes of generous strangers. And it was magical.
Once I graduated, I discovered, to my sorrow, that immersion in making music together like that just doesn’t happen for adults who are not professional musicians. No adult chorus can rehearse four nights a week. In spite of this, we carry on, we who love to sing and who know personally all the good that singing brings to our lives—the breathing, the being together, the intense focus, the music itself.
I want more people to have music in their lives. That’s why I’m surrounded by the stuff for a silent auction, and it is worth every bit of the effort.