I always wanted to be a singer, ever since I saw Interrupted Melody about Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence. The only problem was that I never had the voice to be a singer.
I was in grammar school when I saw the movie about the opera star who battled polio. I spent hours trying to sing operatic soprano (I am an alto). Looking back, I pity my poor mother, as I warbled notes way above my vocal range while I did the dishes. Many's the time she would gently ask me if I could please shut up (she said it nicer)
Whenever we sang in class and Sister Mary What's Her Name would walk around the room to listen to us, to see if we were on key, I always sang louder when she got near me, hoping she would see what a beautiful voice I had. Somehow she never noticed.
When I moved to high school, I was able to take choir as a regular class. I was still waiting to be discovered for my beautiful voice, but while waiting, I blended with my fellow choir members.
I loved singing Christmas carols. It was in high school where I learned about harmony and the glory of making that wonderfully blended sound. By now, I knew I was an alto, so learned the alto lines of all the familiar Christmas carols.
To this day, it's difficult for me to sing the tune, because I want so badly to make the harmony for each of the carols.
The most memorable concert we gave was at a home for unwed mothers. Our local PBS station was doing a special on the home, but they could not show the faces of the girls so our choir went and donned maternity smocks (never did I realize I would live in them for about 10 years later in life!), and the finale of the show was all of us, fauxly pregnant, singing Christmas carols on the altar of the home's chapel.
When I started at UC Berkeley, I joined the Newman Hall choir and we performed some of the most glorious music I have ever sung. We always pulled out all the stops at Christmas, singing in that beautiful wood paneled chapel, with the poinsettias decorating the altar and the gold baby Jesus beneath it.
Oh come let us adore him!
It was a real step backwards when Walt and I married and moved out of Berkeley and started attending parish churches. I always joined the choir, but they were never on a par with the Newman Hall choir. Still, Christmas was always my favorite time to sing all the beloved Christmas carols and dust off my alto rendition.
When we were with The Lamplighters Musical Theater, we went caroling on the cable cars in San Francisco. Singing with a group of professional singers while hanging on the outside of a cable car is an experience I will always remember fondly. We ended our carols at the Buena Vista, the bar that invented Irish Coffee, and we would warm our hands around a nice cup of the stuff.
I never joined the choir here in Davis. I listened to them and was never inspired, though I did sing along heartily when Christmas rolled around and everyone in the church was invited to join in the choir with singing the familiar carols. Something about a darkened church, lit only with candles, smelling the wax mixed with incense and crooning "Silent Night" with a hundred or more of the faithful.
We've been caroling a couple of times, the first time with the Davis Comic Opera Company, who routinely wandered the streets of Davis singing Christmas carols. I think we learned of this the last year they did it. It was not quite the experience of singing with the Lamplighters, but any time I could lend my voice with a professional one, I fooled myself into thinking, again, that I had a pretty good voice.
The last time I hit the streets caroling was more on a par with my talents. We had dinner with Ned's in-laws and then we all picked up kazoos and either played or sang carols as we wandered around the neighborhood. (I am a virtuoso on the kazoo.)
There's something special about joining with others and sharing Christmas carols with other people. There is a real sense of camaraderie that you may not achieve at any other time.