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RBF Choir - Sunday, December 15, 2019
Ever since moving to the Bay Area and joining RBF, Priscilla has always wanted to have an English choir at church. We have a Chinese choir, but nothing on the English side has materialized. Chalk it up perhaps to a lack of interest on the congregation's part, our pastors' seeming view that singing should be congregational, and the lack of somebody stepping up to lead.

Well that has changed over just the last three weeks. One of our more musically-inclined members, Stacy, used her influence to assemble a seasonal choir, with her leading/directing, to perform at this year's RBF Christmas party. And the pastors were ok with it. Nearly 30 people signed up, and Priscilla of course jumped on the opportunity, and she pretty much forced me to sign up with her. Anything for the wife...

There were three practices held, with the expectation that everybody would make at least two. The first was in late November, but we missed it because Priscilla was traveling in Orlando with Tracy at that time (and I didn't care to go to that practice by myself). The second was last Sunday after church, and the final practice was this afternoon after church. Our performance songs were "A Joyous Christmas" (a medley of "O Come, All Ye Faithful", "Angels We Have Heard On High", and "Joy to the World") and "Silent Night" in four-part harmony. We were also to lead the congregation in singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain", "The First Noel", and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", with all of us singing just the melody. Vera, who was visiting for a couple weeks, got roped into playing piano for us after the original pianist got sick. That's what happens when you've got a heart for serving others and have mad skills.

Doing choir doesn't come easy for me. Reading music is not my forte, and I'm not really able to look at notes on sheet music and immediately turn that into musical notes (hence why for worship, I play drums). I'm only able to sing through a song after essentially memorizing the notes, using the relative positions of notes on the page as a guide. The first practice that we attended was rough for me, but I spent a lot of time afterwards working through the sheet music learning my part (I chose the tenor role). I even highlighted every one of my notes, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to pick them out in real-time with so much other stuff on the page. By the time the final practice rolled around this afternoon, I knew my part fairly well, and it seemed like everybody else was in the same boat. Stacy was great about giving us constant feedback about technique, style, and everything in between. She mentioned things like rounding out our vowels, singing more legato instead of staccato, and being mindful about crescendo and decrescendo to make our singing more dynamic. People incorporated her feedback well, and we all sounded undeniably better at the end of practice versus at the beginning.

Finally, this evening, we performed for the 150 or so people at the Christmas party. I think we sounded terrific, especially for having only three weeks of practice. The choir was split roughly 50-50 between guys and girls, and there were a few other guys in the tenor section. Where I messed up, they and the rest of the choir would carry the song, and it sounded... beautiful. I really enjoyed singing as part of a large group, hearing the sum of each individual's effort culminate in something collectively grand. I guess there was interest after all!

When Priscilla first signed me up, I thought the experience would be miserable for me (only slightly exaggerating). While it's still true that doing choir is not something I would pick for fun, I did enjoy the experience of seeing the fruition of the work put in, singing with others more musically gifted than myself who lifted me when I stumbled, and reaching a shared objective as a team. I daresay that I perhaps even had fun. No promises, but if we do another choir next year, I wouldn't be entirely opposed to signing up.
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