Sunday, January 12, 2020

A musical interlude.

Earlier this week, I ran across an article (shared by a friend on Facebook, naturally) about how singing in a choir makes you happier. It turns out that singing triggers chemical reactions in the brain that release a number of feel-good substances: endorphins, which blunt our pain receptors; dopamine, the happiness hormone; and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps us regulate appetite. In addition, music plows durable pathways in our memory. Folks suffering from dementia can sing along with songs from their youth, surprising themselves as well as their caregivers. And music has the ability to transport performers -- and listeners. When I shared the article on Facebook, I confessed that listening to my daughters' high school choir performances would leave me in tears, and not just because I was the proud mama. Oddly, drum and bugle corps performances have affected me the same way. Not so orchestra or band concerts, maybe because I performed in enough of them as I was growing up that I got over it.

Anyway, I'm about to put all of this stuff about singing to the test. I signed up for a Smithsonian Associates program called the Boomers Chorus. We'll be singing songs from the '60s and '70s -- which is perfect, because I kind of specialize in knowing those oldies, having grown up listening to them on the radio.
cdd20 | CC0 | Pixabay
Unlike other musical groups I've been involved in, the program for this concert is already set. The choir director emailed us, explaining that because there are no auditions for this group (you pay your money and they have to take you) we're likely to have people with all sorts of musical ability and experience, from those who sing regularly, to those who used to, to those who have always wanted to. So while some of the songs will be performance-ready by the time the concert rolls around in March, not all of them will be -- and that's okay. The point is to get people singing, learn a new skill or brush up on an old one, and have some fun.

When it comes to experience level, I'm sort of a hybrid. The vast majority of my musical experience has been instrumental, although I sang in the chorus of my high school musicals every year. And of course, I always sang along with the radio. Given the state of audio technology back then, I might have to relearn some lyrics.

I'm especially excited about one of the songs on the program: Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It's a great choice for a choir, with that symphonic ending. When I was in high school, we played an arrangement for symphonic band that raised the hair on everyone's necks -- and I mean that in a good way.

Here's the original from 1970. I hope we do it justice.

These moments of hair-raising musical blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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