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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Make a Joyful Noise


I sing alto in a church choir. Besides singing weekly for the Sunday service we also perform two concerts a year, one at Christmas and one in the spring. Today is the day for our spring concert, and I finally feel pretty comfortable with the music and ready to go.

This morning at church I happened to pass one of the sopranos in the hallway. She has a lovely trained voice and has been a paid choir section leader for years, though she is singing as a volunteer with us. Her husband teaches voice and has one of the best tenor voices I've heard, and he sings with us as well.

As we passed she reached out and stopped me. "I just wanted to tell you", she said, "what a lovely voice you have. I'm not usually in a place where I can hear you, but the other day I happened to be placed where I could hear you singing. I was really surprised. I told my husband, 'wow, Deb Cusick has a really nice voice'. That's a fine instrument you have there. Congratulations."

Naturally I was quite chuffed, and even managed to just thank her graciously, unlike the "old me" who would probably, instead, have started sputtering out all the things that were wrong with my voice.

So, other than tooting my own horn, what does this have to do with a food blog? Nothing specifically perhaps. But someone who is ill-nourished is unlikely to be able to sing well. There is a lot involved in singing, breath control probably being one of the most important. You have to be able to get the breath support from deep within your diaphragm, and to control it to be able to sustain a line.

Someone who is ill-nourished is also likely to have weaker muscles, less diphragm control, just less energy all around.

I certainly had less energy back in the "bad old days". Our choir director often makes us stand to rehearse certain numbers, especially for a final rehearsal. That used to kill me! I never had the energy to stand and sing, and would stubbornly stay in my chair while everyone else was on their feet. And I could never take in enough breath to sustain me to the end of a line, and was constantly having to sneak in little catch breaths.


Here we are at the dress rehearsal yesterday. I'm the one in the second row to the far right, with my head tilted inward. We were rehearsing the second half of the program here. But the first half features a performance of Randall Thompson's "The Peaceable Kingdom" as well as his well-known "Alleluia". Both are a capella works and we will sing them straight through. "The Peaceable Kingdom" alone takes about 20 minutes to perform.

Since it's a capella the orchestra will have moved, and the choir will come out and stand in front of the organ console to perform the work. So that was how we rehearsed it yesterday. Since it was a rehearsal it didn't take 20 minutes! We had to keep going back and repeating things, so it was probably more like 40 minutes, plus the Alleluia. So that was more like 45 minutes straight on my feet for rehearsal. I could never have done that in the days when my diet was so much worse, and I weighed 109 pounds more than I do now. I would have had to walk off and sit in a pew.

So energy and strength are certainly among the good things I have been acquiring, and which have helped me greatly with my voice. I came home from church and had some delicious parmesan-crusted chicken thighs and some coconut-rhubarb compote for lunch, and that will surely sustain me through the concert.

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