Regular readers of A Year of Guys may remember that the Burlington Choral Society singers gave me a “get well soon” book after my surgery in late February. The book was Imperfect Harmony: Finding happiness singing with others by Stacy Horn, which is about Ms. Horn’s experiences as an amateur singer in the Choral Society, a 150-voice chorus in residence at Grace Church in Manhattan.
The book was very gratefully received. First and foremost it represented affection and concern from a group that I care about, and it bore the signatures of all the singers who were present at the rehearsal that I had to miss while I was in the hospital. But the book is also beautifully written and, to my ear, absolutely authentic about the thrills and anxieties that accompany each singer as they commit vast numbers of discretionary hours to learning and performing great choral music.
When I posted on February 27 I had not read the whole book, but with lots of forced time on my hands I finished it about a day later. What it does better than any other account I’ve ever read about singing in a chorus, is convey the public/private duality of the choral singer. The desire to be heard, but not too much. The need to commit to expressing big emotions in the music as directed by the conductor while experiencing very personal responses to parts that are special, perhaps, to no one besides themself.
Stacy Horn also makes some observations from her seat in the soprano section that I hadn’t heard before, such as the fact that, as a sub-genre within choral music, requiems tend to get performed more frequently in the spring than in the fall. (Ms. Horn, it turns out, is fascinated by death and is usually up for a good requiem, but she’s right about springtime being “requiem season” for choral groups. It is, I suppose, a kind of antidote to the prevalence of happy holiday music in December.)
But it was a completely unexpected pleasure to get a short note from Ms. Horn about my April 24 post, Heaven on earth, even in a Requiem, that read “Hi! I came across and posted about your wonderful blog. Good luck with the Requiem.”
This I received on the morning after the performance, and it felt like a lovely benediction on the concert. Ms. Horn is a writer with a number of book to her name, including Unbelievable: Investigations into ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy and other unseen phenomena from the Duke parapsychology laboratory, Waiting For My Cats To Die, and The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad.
She blogs about a wide variety of subjects including death, cats and music here. I recommend it. Spread the word.