I’m singing as I type. Loudly. And not particularly tunefully. But it’s amazing. Well I think so anyway. You see I’ve joined the Tenovus Sing with Us choir in Swansea. I’d heard about it through a relative who’d never (to my knowledge) shown any interest in singing before but was suddenly tossing around words like “First Sop” “Alto” and “Don’t mind me, I’m just flexing my diaphragm” and it got me interested. Not enough to actually go along to a rehearsal mind – not immediately anyway. No for several weeks I just quietly stalked their Facebook page & played around in my head with little fantasies of me turning up to their rehearsals and launching into a rendition of some classic musical theatre number to their amazed delight (“Who is this girl?” “I wish I could sing like her.” “And look how slim she is.”)
I started mentioning to a few of my other relatives I was thinking about joining. This was my way of getting up the nerve to actually do it. Next thing I know my auntie (not the choir one, well not that choir one, this other auntie is in a different choir – I mean this is Wales you know, we all end up in a choir at some point in our lives). Anyway she rings me up and says she’s heard I’m joining a choir. “I might be,” I say cautiously. “How do you know?” “Oh I saw whatsername in the petrol station the other day.” (whatsername is my other auntie – it’s Welsh for “I’d better not put her real name on here, she might just kill me.”) “They’re chuffed,” my auntie on the phone said, “They think you sing like Barbra Streisand.” “You what?!” I exclaimed. “Well you used to listen to her all the time,” said my aunt, ” I remember that much, but I didn’t know about the singing .”
Me neither, I thought to myself. I admit I went through a bit of a Barbra Streisand phase from the age of 8 to 18. During this time I wore flat caps as per What’s Up Doc, insisted on posing sideways for any photo (as per the cover of Love Story) and chopped off all my hair to get into Rabbi school (ok I made that bit up). But none of that meant I actually ever sang like her of course.
But on the other hand – who was I to argue? Maybe my aunt knew something I didn’t. Maybe my fantasies weren’t so far fetched after all. “They think I sing like Barbra Streisand,” I said to hubby. “Who does?” he asked, looking around for some lost and confused soul whose ears had fallen off. “My auntie whatsername in the choir.” “Hmm,” he said, which turned out to be his way of saying “God help them when you turn up then.” But he said Hmm. Because he knows a divorce could be expensive.
So I go to choir (late because I couldn’t find my What’s Up Doc cap). Disappointingly no one asks me to sing Don’t Rain on My Parade as soon as I enter the room (no Funny Girl fans, I muse). Instead it turns out we’ll be learning You’ll Never Walk Alone. Not a favourite of mine it has to be said (was once teased by a boy whose father loved Liverpool – painful associations, albeit rather indirect). The choir leader plays the Soprano part of the CD so we Sops (I already have the lingo down) can hear what it sounds like. I start to feel a little queasy. There are notes there I’ve never met before in my life. My vocal chords start to curl up in fear at the back of my throat. I coax them out with a cough. The choir leader tells us to squeeze our bum to reach them. I misunderstand & squeeze someone’s else bum. There’s a bit of a set-to but then it all calms down. Finally it’s time to sing. I give it my all. Half way through I think I’m getting it. But then my aunt turns around and her face says everything. I’ve let her down, I’ve let myself down & worst of all I’ve let Barbra down. I take off the cap in shame.
Turns out it’s hard singing and I am way out of practice. I breathe all wrong. I strain when I try to hit my top notes. I sound like a robot when I try to hit my bottom ones and I forget all the words, all the time. All in all I’m sure the Tenovus choir are simply delighted I turned up that evening. My fantasies have all changed – now I just dream about somehow not bringing shame on the family in the Christmas concert, and maybe just maybe hitting even one of those notes in You’ll Never Walk Alone.
But it’s all good fun. And I sing around the house more than ever. Husband mutters things about noise cancelling headphones and garden offices. And the other day I heard him apologising to the neighbour. But yes it’s all good. Who doesn’t love a bit of music in their lives!