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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More like a mockingbird

With my parents after a performance
At age 10, I played Tootie in "Meet Me in St. Louis" with Pioneer Theater Company. It's my earliest memory of performing, and I loved it. From there I went on to be a back-up singer for Mariah Carey, Billy Joel, and Boyz II Men (in my bedroom). I grew up watching musicals and every movie Shirley Temple ever made.

In junior high I participated in all the musicals and choir classes I could. By 14, I made the Madrigals choir and loved it so much I didn't even mind that class was at 7am before school started. The hitch, though, is that while I lived to sing and was pretty good at it, I was terrible at reading music. I had always been a soprano, so I rarely had to worry about sight-reading anything too difficult. But in my last year in jr. high, I was selected to sing a duet with Meri Hellewell in the musical and I was asked to sing alto to her amazing soprano.

I was terrified.

It was Memory, a piece from Cats, and it was very straight-forward, even for a novice alto. But still, as someone who has always coasted along, just reading melody, it was a challenge to stand up there with Meri and sing harmony. I like to think we nailed it as I have no recollection of tanking.

In the years since, I haven't participated much in choirs. In high school (after moving back to Maine), it was a scenario of a very small pond with a select few serving as the big fish. Since I had done my 9th grade year at a different school in Utah, I had missed my chance to be recognized as having any talent. All the "stars" for every musical for the next four years had already been plucked out by the choir director. So I quit choir and resorted to just singing the National Anthem on occasion for games.

At WSU I considered some choir classes but ended up settling for the casual choir class at the Institute. The problem I faced there was that although I was attending solely for the opportunity to sing, many others were not. I started wearing a ring on my left hand to ward off all those boys who were at Institute to find an eternal companion.

As my schedule starting filling up with classes and work, I dropped choir altogether. I once again resorted to singing the National Anthem at basketball games in the Dee and occasionally sang solos or group numbers at church or Tuesday Devotionals at the Institute.

All this to say that whatever meager skills I once possessed to read music all but disappeared. Sure, I try alto parts during Sacrament meeting when the congregation sings hymns I've known all my life. But it's not the same as being challenged and taught to do better. So imagine my terror, once again, when I started going to my new/correct ward in West Jordan and the choir director asked me to join as an alto.

I attended my first rehearsal this week and tried not to pee my pants in fear. I sat next to a tenor and the two other altos and hoped for the best. I looked over the simple music and thought things would be fine until the director welcomed me and informed everyone I'm a very talented alto.

The other altos asked me to sing loudly so they could follow me and the tenor I sat next to asked me to sing along with his part and then I realized I was probably in trouble. So I whispered to the ladies that I am, in fact, not an alto and that I can't, in fact, sight-read.

That went over well.

But I'm going to try and  see where this part takes me. I've come a long way since I was 14 and had to sing alto in public for the first time.


  1. You'll do great as an alto! It takes a little practice to shut out the melody and learn to listen for the harmony, but you'll pick it up quick. Being alto is the best! :)

  2. Lol! I am terrified of alto parts too (also because I can't sight read)! But I love to sing them because I like hearing the harmony that I sometimes ignore when I sing soprano. I'm sure you'll be awesome once you get used to it!
    Make friends with someone who plays the piano so you can practice. :)


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