I’ve mentioned in the middle of February that my new (now newish) choral society, the Orfeón (yes, now with the correct Spanish spelling) were preparing for the Madz et Al choral festival.
The festival has come and gone (it took place this past Sunday, April 6), and the whole experience has shaken me up quite a bit! Things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to be, but in the end, all I can say is that I came out a better person.
From Day One, I have not found myself in the ideal setup in terms of attending rehearsals. Given that all of the members, save for myself, have normal 9-to-5 schedules, I am unable to join them for weekday rehearsals. I can only join them on Saturday mornings, if they are so inclined to hold rehearsals. Geographically speaking, I am also at a disadvantage, as the venue (a community Catholic church with a great choir loft) is at two hours away from where I live (cut by half if I take the cab). The latter isn’t so much of a problem than the former.
We’ve learned to make-do, however. I am able to practice my harmony lines on my own, the rest of Orfeón uploads their rehearsal recordings, and when I come on a Saturday, I’m ready to sing with them.
The set-up, thankfully, doesn’t prevent me from doing my other job, which is to take care of costumes — which was what I thought.
The first two weeks of rehearsals turned out great! In the first week, I was able to join them on a Saturday. In the second week, I joined them on a Friday night (for which I took a leave of absence). Two weekends followed in which rehearsals weren’t held as there were church activities then. By the time the third Saturday came in, things started to take a turn for the bad — in my head.
Final decisions were made by the Conductor with regards to the costumes without my being informed — they didn’t even try. All that I have suggested in the beginning were scrapped for something that goes against my personal aesthetic (organza over geena silk, for crying out loud); not to mention, there was a matter of my artist’s pride and my wanting to do my job that was just trampled on all over the place.
Long story short, it all upset me, and the Conductor and I had a row over it (privately, of course. The only other person who knew about or disagreement was our common friend). Even the last bit of work that I did (which is purchasing appropriate stage-worthy earrings) was set aside as we ended up borrowing from another choir. In the end, I just decided not to sing for this performance.
Now, it wasn’t just that disagreement that made me decide not to sing. It was the final nail in the coffin as it were — a coffin of broiling insecurities and loneliness in the three weeks that preceded the fallout.
I was lonely because I was singing on my own. “What’s the point of singing in a choir when you end up singing your odd harmony lines on your own?” was my constant thought. It didn’t help that the room I practiced in absorbed sound so well, that it was quite uncomfortable just hearing the sound of my own voice and that of the piano. Having a recording to sing-along to doesn’t is a very weak imitation of the companionship and camaraderie of singing with your choir.
I became insecure, instead of being encouraged. I listen to the rehearsal recordings, and I felt jealous that I couldn’t be there to sing with them. I felt that I was being left behind while they were having all the fun.
But that was all in my head.
A week or so leading to the performance, I went out with some of the ladies for shoe-shopping. Even then, as I was heading to the mall, I kept on saying to myself, “Yeah, whatever, this is just shoe-shopping. I’ll just get this over and done with and it’s one less thing in my costume gopher bucket list.” I was even expecting to be received with animosity and forced politeness.
I was proven wrong.
However, so deep I was in my insecurity that I just let myself go with the flow, laughing and joking, letting the ladies’ energies drive me forward. At least, I had enough grace left in me that I was also driven to do a damn good job in helping them pick shoes (and I got a pair for myself!) I didn’t realize how much I missed them, and how much they truly regarded me with affection and gratitude until we had to part ways. Each of the seven ladies who came shopping with me gave me hugs and kisses and blessings, and expressed their regret at my not being able to sing with them.
I also realized that the smiles and laughter I had with them were true. When I walked away, I was reminded at how much this group is a blessing to me, and I know now that I was lead to a very good place.
The story doesn’t completely end there, as the bad and the good comes and goes like the tide. A few days leading to the performance saw me again with spells of insecurity, specially that I was tasked to take care of the ladies’ makeup (along with another makeup artist). I had no experience with professional makeup whatsoever, but I gave it my best shot.
I wasn’t able to see them perform, as I had to leave for my nephew’s graduation party. But I didn’t leave without surprises: André (my colleague and Highstreet Harmony’s leader) surprised me with a big hug before they were called backstage, expressing his thanks. I admit to having tears sting my eyes at that moment because he isn’t a physically expressive man, so I knew that indeed, he was grateful — and perhaps also a little sad that I couldn’t sing with him. I didn’t feel too bad. He’s my friend, and it’s great for me to help him see his dream come true.
Second surprise was with the Conductor. Sure, we’ve made our peace way before, but we also embraced before heading ways. To me, it served to seal the fact that we have apologized to and have forgiven each other. It was a good release for me, and I think (I hope!) that it also served some good for her.
As I rode the cab away from the theater and to my next destination, all the bitterness, jealousy and loneliness had melted away. I might have a bit of regret — I do like my spotlight, and it is a performance at THE Cultural Center of the Philippines! — but I knew right then and there, that I have changed and that, for the better.
And so the curtain closes on this chapter of my adventures in choral singing — but it closes not to an end, but to an intermission, which will lead into the next acts of our show. I certainly hope to be in the next one, and that someday, you will be watching. 😉