Until three weeks ago, I had not sung a note for two years, not since I completed my fifth grade classical voice exam. Not a peep, thanks to COVID restrictions.
That changed three weeks ago when I finally went back to Wednesday night rehearsals as a member of Kantabile Chamber Choir.
It felt somewhat like getting back into physical activity after a long, protracted illness - the muscles in my throat and head that are trained to sing are weak and become tired and strained fast. My technique is rusty and, quite frankly, appalling. And the sound of my voice reflects all of that, sometimes hoarse, sometimes thin. At times I even embarrassingly stand out with a quick squeaky blip, like a teenage boy going through puberty.
But, oh, to be singing in harmony with other people again. It's comforting - the sound wraps around you like a blanket - and it feels somewhat religious, divine (I am not a religious person in the least) ... it's definitely blissful.
And incredibly joyful. We are preparing a couple of gospel items to sing at our first concert since COVID came along. Joyful, Joyful does indeed make me feel joyful as we raise our voices to the ceiling.
COVID restrictions and lockdowns have been hard on everybody. But health regulations surrounding choirs were incredibly strict and kind of bonkers, if considered through the lens of a pre-COVID world, due to the force at which we emit aerosols when we sing (watch and listen to us sing Wellerman, a sea shanty that went viral on TikTok, and you'll understand).
Finally, we can sing indoors (choral singing outdoors just doesn't cut it) and don't have to stand metres away from each other. Though we are still rehearsing in masks.
And finally, we are about to perform for the public for the first time in years, although it will be a more casual affair than is usual at Kantabile concerts.
We are foregoing, this time, the 'proper' standard choir uniform of black. Instead, we are dressing in colourful, casual clothes.
The repertoire is different to what Kantabile audiences might be used to - no classical music in this one, it's a completely contemporary concert.
Gone are the tiered risers for the choristers, and the audience doesn't have to sit and listen if they don't want to - they will be free to wander around the Manning Regional Art Gallery and view the current exhibitions, if they so wish, with a glass of bubbly in their hand, as we sing. They can mingle with the choir in intermission, and enjoy the food we have prepared for them.
We're just so damned happy to be back performing and sharing beautiful sounds (that is, unless this rusty singer breaks that beautiful sound with a break in my voice!).
In the words of the other gospel piece will be performing, Oh Happy Day!
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