This book will gen you up on all the chemicals in all the bottles in your bathroom. You will then want to throw them away.

I am going this morning to work on my Buck piece with my choir director. I told him yesterday that I had been asked to sing in the Methodist choir and would not be with him for the Easter music. “I had wondered how long it would be before they tapped you,” he said quietly. It felt as though I were telling him I wanted to see other people. The Empress and That Man have also defected, and he is taking it well, but we still feel guilty. Tonight I will go for the first time to try out the new choir. I have sung in a lot of groups of various kinds, but each new one is different. So I have been thinking about those differences.

A solo is art, or communication, or work, depending on why you’re doing it. The singer has full responsibility for the sound. You have to train, and work, and practice, and figure out exactly what it means and what effect you want on the audience. It can be a relaxed “Hey! Sing that one about…” kind of situation, or a full-on recital, but either way it is a commitment of sorts.

Partygirl and I go to a class on Tuesday nights in which we sing a little. There are about 300 women there. In cases like this, you have no responsibility for the sound. With that many people, all the little differences even out into one sound (although once at Montreat I had the opportunity to sing casually with 1000 musicians, and it was quite wonderful), and you can sing just for the pleasure of it. You can even listen to it, a luxury singers don’t usually have. We usually have to listen so specifically that we don’t get to hear the entire piece in the way the audience does.

Choral music is somewhere between those two poles. The Chamber Singers, my Thursday night rehearsal, can require the same level of responsibility as a solo. We are  a small ensemble, working hard to convey the director’s choice of sound. In opera, you don’t want to blend, but in chamber music it is essential, and with only three or four voices to a part, it takes effort to blend and balance, and we must also sing our best. In the Presbyterian church choir, we are mostly non-singers, so the focus has to be on the process, not the product, but we are still working toward a certain effect. Choral music sung entirely by good singers is a great pleasure to sing and to listen to. I like to be the worst singer in the group.

Congregational singing (that is, when you sing where you stand in the pews in church) is something else entirely. It’s more like driving. I try to be sure to sing at the same volume as the others around me, in the style that the congregation prefers, with no embellishments unless that is obviously the local custom. If my singing the alto line throws my neighbors off, I sing melody. My goal is to be an unobtrusive, useful singer. Not everyone takes this approach. I know an otherwise very nice lady who, if she thinks the song leader is taking a hymn too slowly, just goes ahead and sings it at her own preferred tempo. Were she a musician, this would be an unquestionably hostile act, but I give her the benefit of the doubt. These rules also apply to singing on a bus, around a campfire, and in other public situations. By the way, if you are a non-singer in one of these settings, and you hear a singer who is following the rules, do not stare. We can’t help sounding like that. If it is a singer showing off and being obnoxious, you can stare.

Singing often is also worship, but that is another discussion.

I have nothing to say about knitting today. Hopkins is growing, but a long swath of gray stockinette can do a lot of growing before it qualifies as news. But don’t miss Mayflower’s pretty purple sweater: