Twenty years ago, at the age of seventeen, I joined a choir I had wanted to be part of since I was little. My parents were of the belief that extra-curricular activities of any kind would be a distraction and, therefore, detrimental to my education, so I joined the choir as soon as I could, just before I left home to go and study on the larger island.
Singing with this group of people quickly became the highlight of my then monotonous life. I lived for those two hours of singing every Sunday morning. I dreamt about it, hummed pieces by Palestrina while at school, borrowed CDs of the Sistine Chapel choir and had long conversations about art and music with the leader of our choir, a hugely inspiring genius of a woman who unwittingly mentored me during my university days. I never failed a rehearsal or Sunday Mass with the choir. At the weekend, one of the main reasons I would come back to the smaller island was so I could sing on Sunday morning.
Eleven years passed and when I found out I was expecting Maia, one of my most pressing concerns was whether I’d still be allowed to sing in church. To my knowledge, the choir had never had a single parent sing with them and I was afraid the parish where we sang would be reluctant to have a living example of sinful living in their midst. I was very wrong. Both the choir and the Parish Priest thought it ridiculous I should think them so narrow-minded and assured me they had absolutely no problem with things remaining as they were. I also remember the conductor telling me that this child would grow up hearing great music and that she or he would one day be part of the choir.
And so the singing continued. It just so happened that while I was pregnant with Maia, our choir was very busy with two big performances: Carmina Burana (one of my all-time favourites) and Lloyd Webber‘s Requiem. We also performed Tosca, in which I was a nun (the costume designers cleverly hid my bulging belly with an extra piece of fabric hanging down the front). What this meant was hours upon hours of rehearsals and of me hearing the recordings while studying the scores. While at work, I’d put one of the recordings on a CD player and put the headphones to my belly so Maia could enjoy the music. I guess I really hoped this child would share my love of choral music and I think I can safely say that my hopes were fulfilled. I started taking her with me to choir practice when she was barely three months old and she never fussed while we were singing. She’d stop in her tracks at the sound of our voices. The first time we missed choir was when I was expecting Robin. I was so sick throughout that pregnancy that music was one of the first things I put on hold. Then Robin arrived and it was virtually impossible to leave the house with both girls and be at the church on time, so I gave up.
It came to me a few months ago, on a Sunday morning the little ones were at my parents’ and I decided to go to choir practice. I hope that nobody around me noticed but I was singing and crying at the same time. I felt alive again. I felt like me again. Not to get all religious on you, but this was and will always be the place I feel closest to God. Singing, in Latin, with a group of talented singers. Call me a nerd (like my husband does), but this is my happy place.
All this to say what? Well, a few weeks ago I shared the stage with Maia during the performance of Otello. She was in the children’s choir and I was with my choir. I can’t tell you how excited we both were that she would be singing in a choir, and on a stage too! It will be an experience we’ll both never forget, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve been making more of an effort not to miss choir on Sundays, even if it means taking both children with me and having to change Robin’s clothes during the sermon after she wets herself. I want both of them to grow up hearing the music which means so much to me and, one day, singing it themselves. They’re both very musical and I’m sure they’ll be amongst the future members of our choir.
If you’re still reading and fully conscious, I’ve got a little something for you. Consider it a reward for being such a good reader!