Today the choir I help to direct at BC started working on a piece that I sang with BC bOp! when I was an undergrad. The same director who arranged the piece for us was teaching them the song, and for an introduction he played a recording of our ensemble singing it in 2001. I started to get all emotional as I began to recognize voices of old friends weaving in and out of the harmonies, and when one of my best friends’ voices rose up to sing one of the verses, I really let the tears loose.
The singing wasn’t nearly as refined as some of the ensemble work I do now. Pitch sags and voices don’t always move together, and our unison isn’t quite what we thought it was at the time. Still, there’s a lot of beauty in such free and guileless singing. Back then singing wasn’t work yet. I opened my mouth and accepted whatever came out. I wasn’t thinking about tone and raised palate and resonance. I was having the first of my paid gigs at that time, and discovering that my voice was more than just a gift, it was an asset.
The other voices on that recording belong to people whose stories are a part of mine. They loved me when I was an unrefined and graceless college freshmen who didn’t deserve to be treated as well as I was. We shared everything because we were always together and didn’t know any better. We were too young for secrets but old enough to know how special it was to be with each other, singing dissonances and dancing when the band was playing.