Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Glee of Singing

Last night I sang my first concert gig with the choir I joined last year.  As long as I've had independent thought I have been a member of a choir and I can't imagine life without the weekly joy of coming together with others to sing.

While there is much pleasure to be had - it's known that singing creates an endorphine rush - choirs can be very strange beasts, especially when it comes to wardrobe. Simple instructions will become rapidly distorted as the desire to advertise one's individuality becomes overwhelming.  My theory is that because singing in a choir is the ultimate team sport requiring people to blend together, suppression of star quality is only possible up to a point.  Therefore evidence of rebellion becomes apparent at the last possible moment.

From time to time I have been required to wear some incredible things for various performances, but I figure that's the job and it's not about me anyway.  I've even worn yellow.  And I don't wear yellow.  I don't own any yellow clothes.  There is nothing yellow in my house, except some post it notes and a lemon.

At one stage I sang in a large classical choir while I was in Brisbane.  Our costume was essentially a big white nightie with a  reversible satin triangle that went over the head and added a splash of green or blue depending on what colour had been chosen for the particular concert.  We were supposed to look like angels. This was an adult choir. The nighties were hideous, but very comfortable to wear and they were unflattering on everyone regardless of size or shape. No one complained about that.  The argument was always about whether this concert should be blue or green.  As though it made a difference to how we sounded.  I swear I heard the thesis put that Mozart's Requiem just felt more green than blue.

White shoes were required.  White shoes.  The only white shoes I owned were my Dunlop Volleys.  Truthfully they were probably more of a dull grey after some wear so decided that my flesh coloured character shoes would be the better option.  I stood in the second back row in a choir of 150 people. No one  would notice what I had on my feet.  I was caught by the Wardrobe Inspectorate* as I was about to walk on stage.

"Where are your shoes?" she hissed.

"On my feet," I replied, looking down to check.

"Those aren't white.  Take them OFF."


"No 'buts', they're not white.  Take them off.  We wear white shoes in this choir."

So I took them off and walked on stage in stockinged feet.  Flesh coloured shoes/flesh coloured feet - what's the difference?  Mozart's not going to notice.

Then I moved to Melbourne.  The essential difference between Melbourne and Brisbane is that the choirs in Melbourne all wear black.  Now you'd think this would be foolproof method of suppressing the mavericks.  Woe betide the Wardrobe Inspectorate who doesn't think to specify what kind of black.  It could be velvet, sparkly, shaggy, sheer, patterned.  Or more usually, covered in dandruff.  Instructions must head off any ability for anyone to express anything other than a love and loyalty to their choir.

That's why I was relieved to discover that the wardrobe for my current group is "black with red".   We were also given permission to "bling it up".  What looked red on me at home in my mirror suddenly looked like a crimson pink when standing next to someone else wearing a tomato red dress.  But no one cared!  It was such bliss because everyone was there for the joy of singing together.  And I had the added comfort of knowing that I wouldn't have an allergic reaction to my costume half way through the show!

The relaxed approach meant that wardrobe dilemmas were of a different flavour.

One of the altos packed the two right shoes from different pairs.  She avoided having to go on in black socks by being the same size as another woman who had a spare.  A fellow soprano confided that she had put on a "foundation garment" which she was finding quite uncomfortable.  Other details she provided was that it went around her middle, but the problem was the fat wasn't being "sucked in" it was being redistributed: some of it was now moving up and spilling over the top of the garment, while the rest was changing the shape of her legs.  I urged her to take it off.   I was concerned I would see her spleen pop out her ear or her feet would burst out of her shoes during the romantic ballad and we'd all end up covered in something.   Now THAT's a wardrobe malfunction.  Eat your heart out Janet Jackson.

My rule now is that if anyone mentions bringing scarves in as the feature piece of the wardrobe, I resign.  Immediately.

*Choirs are breeding grounds for people looking to add meaning to their lives through the exercise of petty power.  My father's term for them is "nametag carriers". The Librarian and Treasurer are those to be most feared as this is where there is much power to be exercised.


  1. Hi Tanya

    Love the blog. How did I know that you'd create a template with shades of purple. The name of your blog suits you impeccably well.

    I'm like you on public transport, though I sometimes listen to my iPod, which is progress for me seeing I've only owned a mobile phone for a couple of years. Eavesdropping, however, always proves the most interesting past time.

    I don't know what to make of your comment about librarians. There are definitely the repressed shusshing 'wield-petty-power-in-any-way-I-can' members of the cardigan brigade. I like to think the stereotypes are changing. Our power should come from empowering people in the provision of ready access to information and knowledge, not by erecting barriers that restrict that access.

  2. Thanks for reading Sarah! My comment was not about librarians in general, but specifically about choir music librarians. They're like a magnified version of the worst stereotype of a normal librarian.
    And look, some of my friends are librarians.

  3. Hi Tanya,
    Nice blogging.
    I could really relate to this one. I hate it when I'm having fun singing and some pushy person goes all fashion police on me, or wants to take up a huge chunk of rehearsal time dictating accessories.
    Your white nightie choir reminded me of the time I wanted to take up badminton as part of a weight loss regime, but didn't because I didn't want to have to force my big fat white arse into big fat white trackpants. :)


  4. That's just cruel Merryn. How about fencing? All of you in a white-with-extra-padding strait jacket. At least no one would see your face.
    Thanks for reading.