Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Thank You for the Music" (Part I)

My mother loved to sing.  Everybody in her family loved to sing!  She had a pretty decent range and was basically an alto.  When she was growing up, every night she and various brothers and sisters and her mother sang while they did the dishes and cleaned up after dinner.  I would imagine that it would take fairly long time as there are a lot of dishes to wash, dry, and put away when you have a family with 11 children!  Besides, a family sing-along is an inexpensive way to entertain a family of that size.

 Between them, they knew a bazillion songs!  As I was growing up, Mom and I carried on the tradition and for as long as I can remember, my mom and I sang most nights over the dishes.  I learned most of those bazillion songs and as I got older we kept expanding our repertoire with new songs including all the popular music being played on the radio.  I learned to harmonize and we sounded pretty decent, at least we thought so!  The point I'm trying to make here is that I have been surrounded by singing my whole life.  It was the best gift I ever received.  I could sing! 

I went to a small Catholic grade school that was staffed by Dominican nuns  (No, that doesn't mean they were from the Dominican Republic.  For the uninitiated, Dominicans was the name of the Order they nuns belonged to.)  Catholics sing all the time, in Latin no less, especially back then and they love doing processions all around the church about a hundred times a year for various occasions! The whole school had to process, singing our little hearts out.  Actually I always liked doing that, as long as I wasn't first in line! 

We would line up according to height.  I was short, that put me in front quite a few times....hated that!  I was always afraid that I would go the wrong way when there was no one to follow!  Didn't realize till years later, that there was very little chance of that, those nuns ran too tight a ship for that to happen.  They were always standing at strategic points ready to grab the processionally-challenged kid who was trying to be the next Wrong-Way Corrigan!

But I digress....When I was in 3rd or 4th grade I became part of the "official" choir.  The official choir was just the girls.  Sister didn't think the boys could pay attention well enough.  We sang every Sunday morning at the 9:00 Childrens' Mass, in addition to all the processions and other events (like Confirmations and graduation).  That was where I learned about group singing, blending, reading music notation, harmonizing, and KEEPING MY EYES ON THE DIRECTOR AT ALL TIMES while singing!  Woe betide the hapless cherub who dared to looked somewhere else.  Sister Rita Terese would start snapping her fingers until the poor child realized that Sister had seen their inattentive little eyes.  Then the kid would get "the Look"!  Oh my, that woman could project such venom without saying a word!  You just knew that your goose was cooked and you were on a slippery slope straight to H-E-double toothpicks!  And Sister would be standing there making sure you didn't escape!

Anyway, I loved singing in the choir!  I loved the glory of those old traditional hymns that had come down through the centuries.  And I must say, that Sister may indeed have been a hard taskmaster, but she knew what she was doing when it came to music.  I learned a lot!!  I sang with that choir for 3 or 4 years. 

As my school was only a grammar school, when I transferred over to public school for Junior High, you can bet I signed up for Chorus.  That included boys AND girls and was taught by Mr. Yost.  After 4 years of Sr. Rita Terese and every Catholic hymn ever written, Chorus under Mr. Yostwas amazing!  We got to have a concert!  Rehearsals were during school time not after school!  We never had to get up early on Sunday in order to sing!  Mr. Yost didn't even try to terrorize us!  And best of all, we got to sing something besides hymns!   I'll never forget walking into his class for the first time.  He handed out a piece of music and I couldn't believe my eyes!!  It was Rogers and Hammerstein's "Its a Grand Night for Singing" (from their show, State Fair.)   Oh wow!  Something fun and happy and familiar!  I was in the right place!  I had found my niche!  I was home.

Tomorrow:  Part II  -  Come on back!


  1. Oh boy do I miss singing in a choir after reading this post!

  2. I came from a very music-oriented family, too. But I never did anything about it other than play Heart and Soul with my dad on the piano. Although I can carry a mean tune in the shower.


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