Family Matters

Family Matters

Mozart Redux: Not All Families are Related by Blood

By Roberta Israeloff

July/August 2012

"It's like running a marathon," I say to Lynn, who sits next to me during choral rehearsals. The program we're preparing that Monday night, to celebrate the organization's 50th anniversary, is thrilling, but exhausting.

We've been singing for an hour straight, ending with Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, the blueprint from which the Ode to Joy evolved. It's a spectacularly demanding piece, especially for sopranos like me. The opening notes are stratospheric, and they keep ascending. Trained singers who know how to breathe properly and where to place their pitches love it, but I'm not trained.

In fact, it's a miracle that I'm sitting here at all.

I love to sing. I've sung in choirs since elementary school. My voice is pleasant enough, and I can carry a tune-which got me through the first part of my audition for the group, six years ago. The next challenge, though, was to sight-read a line of unfamiliar music. It didn't look difficult and I began bravely enough when the accompanist gave me the opening note. But the first interval proved perilous: I couldn't figure out quite how high I should go. I sang on, sweating ever more profusely and losing the thread so completely that I saw the accompanist's fingers hovering above the keys, itching to rescue me.

"Well," said the conductor after I'd stumbled my way to the end, "you know when to go up and when to go down. . . ."

Nonetheless, he let me join the group.

I returned the favor…

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Saturday, December 8, 2012 6:49:55 PM | posted by Eve Averill
I too thought this could be my chorus, the Fairfield County Chorale. I too love all the people around me, and feel so blessed to be among them creating beautiful music.

Sunday, August 5, 2012 9:31:01 PM | posted by Eating as a Path to Yoga
I can relate to this article so much. The audition process can be scary!

Friday, August 3, 2012 5:01:54 PM | posted by Sharon Starr
As I read, I thought this was about my chorus, Chicago Master Singers. You captured the experience of choral singing perfectly. It truly is a gift, to myself and everyone who hears us. For the singers it is also very energizing and therapeutic. Thank you for sharing the experience!

Thursday, July 26, 2012 6:56:38 PM | posted by Kelsey Menehan
Loved the article, Roberta. I am a choral singer and write regularly for Chorus America, the association of choral groups in North America. You captured the wonders of singing perfectly. I wonder if we might reprint the article on the Chorus America website? Take a look

Thursday, July 19, 2012 3:21:52 PM | posted by alice alexiou
Thank you for singing. I receive the music with gratitude, it fills my heart.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 4:54:29 PM | posted by Ron Kimball
Ah, Roberta, your writing is like the singing you describe so well.