Letters from Stay at Home: Let’s Hope We Can Preach to a Choir

Dear World,

As I’ve previously mentioned, my oldest daughter is a singer. And a strummer. And a musician all around. I catch her voice drifting up the vents from the basement where she hangs out into the dining room that’s been my office for the last couple of months every day when she’s taking a break from her classes. Or, more likely, she takes a break from strumming her ukulele1 and singing to attend to school.

As a freshman, she was invited to audition for the upperclass jazz choir at her high school. That’s a big deal. The bigger deal is she was one of two freshpeople selected to join the group next year. Then March happened. But we were looking forward to next year’s choir.

I remember the last thing we did as a family, in a public event sort of sense, was to attend Ani’s choir concert. We sat apart – this was in the early days of “social distancing,” a new phrase at the time – and we listened to some delightful singing.

When you’re hoping your children will embrace something you love and care about deeply, like music, you don’t ever approach them directly about it. You look sideways when they ask about piano lessons, or if it’s okay if they borrow your ukulele. And you never, ever admit that you can hear them when they’re singing and strumming in the basement. If you were to acknowledge the interest too strongly, or at all, you might dislodge her interest.

As a singer/songwriter myself, lapsed at present, I know it’s a thing. A big thing. And high school and college choirs, followed by writing and recording and performing my own songs – those were the moments I was most alive. I can remember almost all of them like they’re still happening.

So I’ve watched the fire she’s laid under music as a very proud father.

I read a note last week on a friend’s Facebook page about a study on COVID-19 transmission and choral singing. The short version is that singing does things to the way that spit and air and possible viral loads can be transmitted extra powerfully by the same diaphragmatic breathing and pushing and exerting that comes from a solidly belted note.

The takeaway from the piece is that choirs, as live groups of performing musicians that others would come to see are likely a dead thing. At least for the next few years as we adjust to the new of whatever we’re in right now.

And it took a few minutes. I was sharing the “can you believe it” with Ani’s mother as we both sort of realized that it wasn’t just singing together at church that was affected.

It was the voice in the basement, the one that drifts up from the vent in the morning when I’m working in the dining room office.

The way I spent my time in high school, the way she was wanting to spend hers in high school, might not be an option. I refuse to accept that right now. But I also know it might be gone.

She’s got three years of high school left. It’s going to happen fast. Faster than clinical tests and whatever warp speed foolishness our current administration has to offer her.

So we’re all healthy and everything’s relatively fine here. But now I’ve got to figure out how to make choral singing work over a network connection. It’s not work I asked for, but it’s something we’re going to have to figure out.

Because, dammit, the music is really quite something.

  1. Technically, mine, but she plays it, so I’m ceding ownership. []

2 thoughts on “Letters from Stay at Home: Let’s Hope We Can Preach to a Choir

  1. It’s 9:15 am here on the east coast and I’m trying not to cry after reading this. I hadn’t seen that study. My own singer will be a senior this fall and just yesterday got the news that she made it into Madrigals, the advanced co-ed choir at her high school. She auditioned last year and didn’t get in – it’s a pretty small choir. If she doesn’t get to sing with them this year it will break her heart and mine.

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