This songbird’s wings are clipped

It’s choir season again – yay!

For three years now I’ve been venting here about the spectacle I make of myself whenever our artistic director, in his ‘wisdom’, incorporates choreography into our repertoire. I mean, I’m not talking mild ineptitude, I’m talking about a horrifying lack of co-ordination; an inability to clap and sway at the same time; and a constant fear of crashing off the risers and taking the entire soprano section with me.

I can't work under these conditions!
I can’t work under these conditions!

Well it’s time to stop whingeing and do something about it. Our last show was a monstrous demonstration of badly executed movement, compounded by a ridiculous array of costumes, all of which detracted from the beautiful (if I say so myself!) sound we work so hard to make.

Enough already! I have found a choir which promises we can ‘make music without the use of jazz hands’ and where jeans and black tops count for costuming. Oh joy!

Sadly, I’m already missing my peeps at the other choir. Three years is a long time for me to stick at anything. In fact the only other thing I can think of is motherhood, and really what choice did I have?

So … this post is dedicated to all my dear songbird friends who I will sorely miss. May your wings carry you in a glorious display of rhythmic movement. As for me, I think I’ll keep both feet planted firmly on the ground, and my wings by my sides – because there’s no way you should expect me to stay upright while trying to remember the words, the tune and the steps all at the same time.


Flawed of the Dance

Once again it’s show time for my choir.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that at about this time every year I devote a post to whining about my sorry inability to follow the fairly simple choreography that accompanies a handful of the songs in our show.

This year, let me tell you, a mere whine will simply not do the trick. Our show is titled ‘British Invasion’ which is, in itself, a terrible misnomer. There are a few songs which were truly part of that notable period in British pop music history, but for the most part the music is just ‘from Britain’. I suppose that isn’t a particularly catchy title.

Having said that, we are singing some beautiful, traditional celtic and gaelic pieces. The best part about those ‘serious’ pieces is that they are usually immune to the machinations of our over-enthusiastic choreographer; but sadly, this year she has decided that they would be greatly enhanced by some twirling around, flapping of arms, and general prancing about.

Nothing too complicated, thankfully, but still, apparently a little more than my brain can master; particularly in combination with the effort of retaining both the words and the tunes. Half the time, if I’m remembering to dance I’m forgetting to sing, or vice versa.

The moves for the livelier numbers, on the other hand, are wound up about fifteen notches from previous years. It’s worth noting here that we are a mixed group of varying ages, sizes, shapes and dance abilities. On the one end of the spectrum there are those who can shimmy and shake with the best of them. On the other end of the spectrum there’s me.

And so the audience can look forward to another year of watching me dithering around with a look of horrified confusion on my face, all the while  trying to suggest some semblance of rhythm from the apparently random spasming of my limbs, and inevitably clapping on the off-beat.

When I joined the choir my intention was not to be the comic relief, but I guess it’s good to have a purpose in life.



Offbeat Legacy

We all want to feel that we have left a legacy for our kids – something of value that can be passed down through the generations.

I like to feel that I’m leaving my children with a strong sense of family; teaching them compassion and humour … and who knows what other wonderful things people might think to make up about me when I’m gone.

An inability to clap wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

For a recent university project, Roxy was instructed to describe what she learned during her first clapping-handsyear of Musical Theatre; focusing on how she did in achieving her goals, and what she learned both about the art and herself.

Among other things, she said she learned that she has no sense of rhythm – due, she assures us, to a genetic predisposition which she identified during an unfortunate episode in which I was discovered clapping on the offbeat.

It only happened once … will I be haunted by it forever?

I can assure you that I have busted some pretty complicated moves in my time.  During a recent choir show we had to sing, sway and clap to one particular song … all at the same time!  And if that wasn’t bad enough, as we swayed one way we clapped once and as we swayed the other way we clapped twice.  Clearly a feat of incredible coordination and (dare I say it) rhythm.  It took a great deal of concentration and practice, but I mastered it.  To the point where Roxy even complimented me on the timeliness of my clapping.

Perhaps the message she should be taking from this is about having the tenacity to soldier on against crushing challenges – to clap in the face of ineptitude.  Yes, that I like the sound of.

Filling The Void

I Screamed “Give Me Some Space”.  I Should Have Been Careful What I Wished For.

This post is written in response to The Weekly Writing Challenge – Playing with Space.  It gives me an opportunity to stray from my usual style and discuss my Empty Nesting Project in a slightly different light.

Three years ago it hit me that life as I knew it was going to change dramatically in the near future.  My children would be moving on, leaving me with a preoccupied husband and an empty house.  Something had to be done, and I embarked on a quest to rediscover and reinvent myself.

The first one has already skipped joyfully off into her future
The first one has already skipped joyfully off into her future

Not a problem, I thought.  I will throw myself into my freelance copywriting business, take up some hobbies and reconnect with old friends.  The children won’t recognize this fascinating creature and it will be good for them to learn that the washing machine works for anyone.

What I wasn’t expecting was the whining and resistance I encountered with every move.  I’d like to tell you it was from the children, but I was the one having trouble adjusting, not them.

Even while I broaden my horizons and try new things I find myself glued to my cellphone – just in case one of the children needs me.  They don’t of course, they’re teenagers, but it always hurts my feelings a little when they manage without me.

I’m brutally aware how outdated and unemancipated it is to admit that I threw myself into the business of raising children and lost myself in the process.  I have created the perfect co-dependent relationship – one where they need me to do everything for them, and I need them to need me.  What’s wrong with me?  Is it possible that there are others out there who can only be defined by the people they take care of?

Of course it hasn’t been all contented domesticity.  I’ve had plenty of those days when I just wanted to scream and swear and lock myself in my bedroom; plenty of those days when I ended up screaming and swearing and locking myself in my bedroom.

There were so many times when I dreamed of a quiet, uncluttered house with everything put away in its allotted place and an absence of finger marks on the walls.  Now that the vision is just around the corner it’s starting to look like rather a soulless place.

I worked hard to raise them to be independent and adventurous, but now that they’re spreading their wings it’s a type of bereavement.  In fact, it occurs to me that the whole process has been akin to the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial.  When they’re little it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever be old enough to leave home.
  2. Anger.  I’ve been through my share of anger at having no career, no life and no end to the mess.
  3. Bargaining.  I’m not above offering pizza or chocolate almonds if only someone will spend an evening with their poor lonely mother.
  4. Depression.  I’ve tried to stay positive through all this, and my blog is my way of forcing myself to look for the funny side of life.  But in the spirit of keeping it real here, I will admit that I have sometimes typed through the tears and that I do occasionally give in to feelings of hopelessness, uselessness and isolation.
  5. Acceptance.  I’m not sure I’ve reached peace yet, but I’m trying to see the Empty Nesting Project as an adventure rather than just a way to fill the endless, gaping void.

So here’s how I’m playing with the space; learning to appreciate it as it opens up before me…

I’ve joined a choir, which is officially now one of my favourite things (yes, we’re singing songs from The Sound of Music this year).  I love it and while it irks me to be surrounded by people infinitely more talented than I, I find that if I sing quietly whenever the choir director walks by I can retain my place and enjoy the opportunity to sing my heart out without anyone telling me to shut up.

I’m planning to take vocal coaching and piano lessons in the hope that I will spend less time at choir cluelessly trying to mimic the harmonies coming from my neighbour.  It would be lovely to understand those pages of squiggles they give us.  And one of these days I’m going to sing a solo.

I’m exercising and eating well because my plans for the next 40 years involve me being active, mobile and in great shape … and I want to age like Diane Keaton.

I plan to hike across England, backpack across India and volunteer overseas.  I will be an inspiration to all those over 50s wondering about throwing the meds and the muscle rub into a backpack and heading into the wilderness in search of adventure.

I’m writing fiction and articles again, and hatching plans to become a prolific and incredibly well paid travel writer.

I’m becoming more involved in my husband’s business which has brought us closer together and given us something to talk about other than how dreadful the children are.

That’s about it so far.  It’s baby steps, but I’m starting to enjoy the journey.  Now I just have to make sure they do all actually move out, and stay moved out!

All My Trials

While I’m on the elliptical at the gym I listen to my choir repertoire, killing two birds with one stone – it helps the time pass and I get to listen to my songs in the vague hope that one day I might stop being the one who always gets the harmony wrong.

In all it lasts a little under 40 minutes, and I put it on shuffle because that’s just the kind of crazy, spontaneous way I live my life.

It seems that the shuffle, though, isn’t that random, because it always ends on a song called ‘All My Trials’.  It’s a Bahamian spiritual and a hauntingly beautiful song – that is, until you listen to the words, which are slit-your-throat miserable.  It is, in fact, the deathbed song of a woman who welcomes the end because ‘all her trials’ will ‘soon be over’.

How fitting!  There I am slogging away, all red in the face and possibly even glowing, desperately wondering if the whole terrible ordeal will ever come to an end, and suddenly on it comes, assuring me that this particular trial will soon be over.  It’s like a little ray of sunshine sent to give me a final burst of strength.

A Musical Triumph

Singing with my choir brings a series of triumphs that warm my soul.  And happily for me the magnitude of the triumphs is inversely proportional to the amount I know about music.

This week I’m happy to report I had to spend hardly any time mouthing the words.

Typically we go round, practicing the parts individually – soprano ones, soprano twos, alto ones and then alto twos.  Awesome, I think to myself, I have this down, no problem.  Until the soprano ones start singing next to me, with their loud, high voices and their melody.  Suddenly the harmony I thought I had mastered becomes a distant memory, replaced in my head by a flat, discordant droning.  And that’s why I spend a good deal of time mouthing the words for the sake of all those around me.

Our choir director is a fabulous, sympathetic soul who records rehearsal tracks for each part individually.  As a soprano two I just have to go online and download all my parts and practice them at the top of my voice as I drive around town.  After a while the soprano two harmonies start to feel so natural that I can sing through the melody without a second thought.  But, until the tracks go on the website I’m at the mercy of those noisy soprano ones.

So, it’s a cause for great celebration when I actually get the harmony and can sing out loud.  Yay me!

We also introduced a new song, a popular and well-known Christmas carol which only has one part for the soprano ones and twos – the melody.  So, when we were told to sight read for the first go through I was virtually note perfect.  It turns out sight reading is very easy when you already know the tune … who knew!

What a great feeling!  Even when the triumphs are pitifully minor, I’ll take them when I can get them.